Water charges up with electricity when exposed to sunlight, offering the
potential for an inexhaustible supply of squeaking clean energy and challenging
conventional understanding of bioenergetics Dr.
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Put some water next to any hydrophilic (water-loving) surface and expose
it to sunlight, or even light from an ordinary light bulb, and the water will
charge up with electricity all by itself. This is the latest in a series of
extraordinary discoveries about water from the laboratory of US bioengineer
Gerald Pollack at the University of Washington in Seattle.
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Water forms massive exclusion zones of ordered molecules next to gel surfaces
It began when Pollack and his student Zheng Jian-ming discovered that suspensions
of colloids and dissolved substances are excluded from a region extending
some hundreds of micrometres from the surfaces of hydrophilic gels  (Water
Forms Massive Exclusion Zones, SiS 23). An ‘exclusion zone’ (EZ)
of this magnitude is in direct contradiction to the generally held assumption
that interfacial water forming at liquid-solid, or liquid-air interfaces can
be no more than a few layers of molecules thick. Instead, what’s observed
is a million layers or more.
Similar exclusion zones were found next to any hydrophilic surface
including surfaces coated with a monolayer of hydrophilic molecules, and around
ion exchange resin beads  (see Fig. 1). Electric charge appears to be important,
as EZ failed to form around charge-exhausted resin beads. Although EZ can
form in pure water, it is enhanced and stabilized by low concentrations of
buffer (2 to 10 mM at pH 7).
Figure 1. Exclusion zones millions
of layers of water molecules deep clear of suspended microspheres form around
charged resin beads
The EZ was characterized by several spectroscopic methods, all
of which showed that it had features very different from the bulk water, suggesting
an unusually ordered crystalline phase where the molecules are less free to
move [3, 4] (Liquid Crystalline Water
at the Interface, SiS 38). The UV and visible absorption spectrum
gave a single absorption peak at ~270 nm in the UV region, which is completely
absent in the bulk phase. The infrared emission record showed that the EZ
radiates very little compared with bulk water, as would be expected on account
of the reduced mobility of water molecules. The magnetic resonance imaging
mapping similarly gave a transverse relaxation time (T2) of 25.4
+ 1 ms, which is shorter than the 27.1 + 0.4 ms recorded for
the bulk water phase, again indicative of restricted motion.
Such coexistence of distinctly different phases has been demonstrated
in 1999 in by Japanese water researcher Norio Ise and colleagues in Kyoto
University  (Water and Colloid Crystals,
SiS 32) using a dispersion of colloid latex particles in water and
digital video recording. They captured a random phase, in which thermal motion
of the particles is of the anticipated magnitude, right next to a crystal-like
phase where the particles had separated regularly from one another by several
micrometres and the deviations from their average positions are lower by an
order of magnitude
Most surprisingly, Pollack and colleagues discovered that the EZ had a different
electrical potential from the bulk phase, by as much as 100 – 200 mV ,
depending on the hydrophilic surface. With a negatively charged surface such
as polyacrylic acid or Nafion (widely used as a proton exchange membrane),
the potential is negative compared with the bulk water away from the EZ. Simultaneously,
the hydrogen ion (proton, H+) concentration is high just outside
the EZ, decreasing in a gradient away from it . This clearly indicates
that the formation of the EZ is accompanied by a separation of positive and
negative electrical charges, which led to the build up of electrical potential
between the EZ and the bulk water. In effect, the water has become an electrical
battery, and can provide electricity through an external circuit.
Separating H+ from e- (electron) is the first step of
photosynthesis in green plants which provides energy for most of the biosphere
 (see Harvesting
Energy from Sunlight with Artificial Photosynthesis, SiS 43). But
where does the energy come from in the case of EZ? It turns out to have more
in common with photosynthesis.
Light charges water
A clue came after having inadvertently left the experimental chamber with
the EZ on the microscope overnight. Next morning, the EZ had shrunk considerably.
But after turning on the microscope lamp, it began to immediately grow again,
restoring itself within minutes to its former size. The energy for EZ formation
comes from light, as in photosynthesis, but it can use the low energy part
of the solar spectrum that photosynthesis cannot.
Although the entire spectrum of visible light appeared effective
in making the EZ grow, the most effective part is in the infrared region,
peaking at ~3 100 nm. A 10 minute exposure at that wavelength expanded the
width of an EZ 3.7 times, and after an hour of exposure, the expansion was
more than 6 times .
After the light was turned off, the EZ remained constant for
about 30 minutes before beginning to shrink, reaching halfway to its baseline
level in about 15 minutes.
When the UV and visible range was tested, a peak in the degree
of EZ expansion was detected at 270 nm in the UV region, corresponding to
the characteristic absorption peak of EZ that was identified before. However,
as the optical power used in the UV and visible region was 600 times that
in the IR, the most profound effect was identified in the IR region, particularly
at 3 100 nm.
The mechanism of EZ formation is still unknown. But the two wavelengths
that expand the EZ most effectively may offer some hint. The UV 270 nm is
close to the 250 nm (~5 eV) required to ionize water under standard state
conditions and taking into account the hydration of the resulting ions .
The 3 100 nm peak, on the other hand is close to the OH stretch of the ring
hexamer identified as the most abundant species in infrared predissociation
spectroscopy of large water clusters , and also in neon matrices by infrared
spectroscopy . These results suggest that photoexcitation of ring hexamers
and photoionisation followed by ejection of protons play synergistic roles
in the assembly of the EZ phase. Pollack and colleagues believe that the infrared
radiation, though normally insufficient to break OH bonds, can nevertheless
work via resonance induced dissociation of large hydrogen-bonded networks.
Implications of the findings
What do these findings mean outside the lab? The 3 100 nm IR source is about
0.6 percent of the sun’s overall energy, which is ~8.4 W/m2. By
comparison, the power density of the LED light source used in the lab was
1.2 mW/m2, almost seven thousand times lower. Chai Binghua, Yoo
Hyok and Pollack speculate that nature may contain a whole lot more EZ water
than most people think. In other words, an appreciable fraction of the sun’s
energy may be stored as charged EZ water. What this means for aquatic life
is a large open question.
The earth is known to have a large negative surface charge, resulting
in an electric field on the order of 100V/m at the earth’s surface. Perhaps
this arises from the earth’s surface water under the influence of radiant
energy from the sun.
Finally, the widespread occurrence of EZ within living cells
and tissues is bound to have a drastic effect on bioenergetics. After all,
organisms are energized by nothing more than the exquisitely orchestrated
flows of electrons and protons that enable them to do everything it means
to be alive  (see The Rainbow
and the Worm, The Physics of Organisms, ISIS publication).
Anne Hooper Comment left 5th July 2009 16:04:39 I am not a scientist, but your discoveries are wonderful. Keep on with your work. Don't allow the 'powers that control the peoples of this world' to stop your research.
tony villar Comment left 27th June 2009 15:03:19 pls go on. this is great.
mae-wan ho Comment left 27th June 2009 15:03:33 reply to james S lee: Na+ and Cl- ions naturally separate in bulk water and that does not provide by itself a method of desalination.
James S Lee Comment left 25th June 2009 04:04:19 Your statement, "...the formation of the EZ is accompanied by a separation of positive and negative electrical charges, which led to the build up of electrical potential between the EZ and the bulk water", made me wonder if the same mechanism can lead to the separation of Na+ and Cl- ions in sea water, thus possibly providing another method of desalination?
Sue Marriott Comment left 1st November 2009 14:02:14 I am so excited by this whole concept... which makes sense at a gut level to this non-scientist. I really want to iron out my understanding and fill gaps in my knowledge... sometimes at a very basic level... with this in mind I have just started a Yahoo group entitled EZ Water.. if anyone wants to join and discuss. Thanks.
jozzy-online Comment left 2nd March 2010 08:08:56 tres interessant, merci
James Vega Comment left 13th April 2011 15:03:16 Can the charging of water be increased with metal colloids added to the water like silver? Also what if there are other colloids or particles in the water? Would these effect the formation EZ or the behavior of it?
RG Comment left 2nd January 2012 13:01:39 May I suggest dr. Matveev's review of Pollack's work in light of Ling's research: http://www.bioparadigma.spb.ru/files/Matveev-2002-Revolution.and.counter.revolution.pdf
Camelopardalus Comment left 30th July 2012 14:02:57 Vladimir Matveev's critique is valid, but not really pertinent to the EZ work mentioned in this article.
The Water EZ is a physical phenomenon, exhibiting a first-order phase transition and a self-organizing system. It is much more fundamental and groundbreaking than the earlier book; the work Dr. Pollack and his team have accomplished exploring the EZ stands on its own and has been extensively peer-reviewed and repeated.