June 26, 2006
Research by Bioengineering Professor Teresa Head-Gordon is helping to quiet a controversy over the structure of water.
For years conventional wisdom held that liquid water retains the general structure of ice, with four water molecules bonded together in a tetrahedron. Two years ago, when Stanford researchers published findings that showed most liquid water molecules connected in a network of large rings or chains, the scientific community erupted in controversy over which model was correct.
Head-Gordon and collaborator Margaret Johnson, both of Lawrence Berkeley Lab, have completed an analysis of data from an x-ray scattering experiment on water conducted at the Advanced Light Source at Berkeley Lab in 2002. They found that although the rings and chains described by Stanford may exist for a few instants, the average structure of water is the tetrahedral network.
Although common and vital, water remains in many ways a mystery. Solving the structure of water is an important step toward understanding its unique properties. This research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more at Lawrence Berkeley Lab .