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Chemists take a closer look at the point where water meets air

  Chemists closer to the point where water meets air
Schematic representation of the water surface, where the spectral signature of an isotopically labeled water molecule is isolated with two infrared lasers. Picture credits: Nan Yang

Despite its central place in so many processes vital to life on Earth, water remains a chemical puzzle in many ways. One of these mysteries is the nature of the water at the point where it comes in contact with air.

A study from the laboratories of Yale chemistry professor Mark Johnson and chemistry professor Anne McCoy of the University of Washington provides a new level of observation and analysis.

They provide the first direct measurement of frequency fluctuations and complexity associated with bound oxygen and hydrogen atoms (OH) on the water surface ̵

1; when one of the OH groups protrudes. The researchers also offer the first measurement of how these OH groups are linked at the water surface level.

"Our work is truly a fundamental scientific contribution, its importance lies in the fact that elemental mechanics and chemical properties of water play a role In many areas this is of great importance and many researchers are at the simulation of this behavior We provide a quantitative benchmark for the calibration of such simulations, "said Johnson, the Arthur T. Kemp chemistry professor at Yale.

Johnson's work has highlighted a number of the chemical properties of water – often using instruments developed and built in Yale. Among the many discoveries of the lab are innovative applications of electrospray ionization developed by the late Yale Nobel laureate John Fenn and ways to quickly freeze chemical processes in water to reveal the twisted arrays of atoms during a reaction.

The new study appears in the online edition of Science of April 18. The first author of the study is Nan Yang and co-authors are Chinh Duong and Patrick Kelleher – all from Yale.

A turning point in understanding how H2O conducts electricity

Further information:
N. Yang el al., "Deconstructing the Diffuse OH Stretching Spectrum of Water with Cold Clusters", 19459014, Science (2019). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi… 1126 / science.aaw4086

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Yale University

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