Transcript: Dr. Gerald Pollack on The Fourth Phase of Water at TEDxGuelphU

We also know there are many water molecules, and these water molecules are actually moving around microscopically. So, we know that.

What don’t we know about water? Well, we don’t know anything about the social behavior of water. What do I mean by social? Well, you know, sitting at the bar and chatting with your neighbor. We don’t know how water molecules actually share information or interact, and also we don’t know about the actual movements of water molecules. How water molecules interact with one another, and also how water molecules interact with other molecules like that purple one sitting there. Unknown.

Also the phases of water. Now we’ve all learned that there’s a solid phase, a liquid phase and a vapor phase. However, a hundred years ago, there was some idea that there might be a fourth phase, somewhere in between a solid and a liquid. Sir William Hardy, a famous physical chemist, a hundred years ago exactly, professed that there was actually a fourth phase of water, and this water was kind of more ordered than other kinds of water, and in fact had a gel-like consistency.

So, the question arose to us — you know, all of this was forgotten, because people began, as methods improved, to begin to study molecules instead of ensembles of molecules, and people forgot about the collectivity of water molecules and began looking, the same as in biology, began looking at individual molecules and lost sight of the collection. So, we thought we’re going to look at this because we had some idea that it’s possible that this missing link, this fourth phase, might actually be the missing link so that we can understand the phenomena regarding water that we don’t understand.

So, we started by looking somewhere between a solid and a liquid. And the first experiments that we did get us going. We took a gel, that’s the solid, and we put it next to water. And we added some particles to the water because we had the sense that particles would show us something. And sure enough you can see what happened is that the particles began moving away from the interface between the gel and the water, and they just kept moving and moving and moving. And they wound up stopping at a distance that’s roughly the size of one of your hairs. Now, that may seem small, but by molecular dimensions that’s practically infinite. It’s a huge dimension.

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So, we began studying the properties of this zone, and we called it, for obvious reasons, the exclusion zone, because practically everything you put there would get excluded, would get expelled from the zone as it builds up, or instead of exclusion zone, EZ for short. And so we found that the kinds of materials that would create or nucleate this kind of zone, not just gels, but we found that practically every water-loving, or so-called hydrophilic surface could do exactly that, creating the EZ water. And as the EZ water builds, it would expel all the solutes or particles, whatever into the bulk water.

We began learning about properties, and we’ve spent now quite a few years looking at the properties. And it looks something like this: You have a material next to water and these sheets of EZ layers begin to build, and they build and build and they just keep building up one by one. So, if you look at the structure of each one of these planes, you can see that it’s a honeycomb, hexagonal kind of structure, a bit like ice, but not ice.

And, if you look at it carefully, you can see the molecular structures. So, of course, it consists of hydrogen and oxygen, because it’s built from water. But, actually, they’re not water molecules. If you start counting the number of hydrogens and the number of oxygens, it turns out that it’s not H₂O. It’s actually HO. So, it is possible that there’s water that’s not H₂O, a phase of water.

So, we began looking, of course, more into these extremely interesting properties. And what we found is, if we stuck electrodes into the EZ water, because we thought there might be some electrical potential, it turned out that there’s lots of negative charge in that zone. And we used some dyes to seek positive charge, and we found that in the bulk water zone there was an equal amount of positivity.

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So, what’s going on? It looked like is, that next to these interfaces the water molecule was somehow splitting up into a negative part and a positive part. And the negative part sat right next to the water-loving material. And the positive charges went out beyond that. We found it’s the same, you didn’t need a straight interface, you could also have a sphere. So, you put a sphere in the water, and any sphere that’s suspended in the water develops one of these exclusion zones, EZ’s, around it, with the negative charge, beyond that is all the positive charge. Charge separation. It didn’t have to be only a material sphere, in fact, you could put a droplet in there, a water droplet, or, in fact, even a bubble, you’d get the same result. Surrounding each one of these entities is a negative charge and the separated positive charge.

So, here’s a question for you. If you take two of these negatively charged entities, and you drop them in a beaker of water near each other, what happens to the distance between them? I bet that 95% of you would say: Well, that’s easy, I learned in physics, negative and negative repel each other, so, therefore they’re going to go apart from one another, right? That what you’d guess? Well, the actual result if you think about it, is that it’s not only the negative charge but you also have positive charge. And the positive charge is especially concentrated in between those two spheres, because they come from contributions from both of those spheres. So, there are a lot of them there.

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