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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How Water's Properties Are Encoded in Its Molecular Structure and Energies.

  • Author(s): Brini, Emiliano;
  • Fennell, Christopher J;
  • Fernandez-Serra, Marivi;
  • Hribar-Lee, Barbara;
  • Lukšič, Miha;
  • Dill, Ken A
  • et al.

How are water's material properties encoded within the structure of the water molecule? This is pertinent to understanding Earth's living systems, its materials, its geochemistry and geophysics, and a broad spectrum of its industrial chemistry. Water has distinctive liquid and solid properties: It is highly cohesive. It has volumetric anomalies-water's solid (ice) floats on its liquid; pressure can melt the solid rather than freezing the liquid; heating can shrink the liquid. It has more solid phases than other materials. Its supercooled liquid has divergent thermodynamic response functions. Its glassy state is neither fragile nor strong. Its component ions-hydroxide and protons-diffuse much faster than other ions. Aqueous solvation of ions or oils entails large entropies and heat capacities. We review how these properties are encoded within water's molecular structure and energies, as understood from theories, simulations, and experiments. Like simpler liquids, water molecules are nearly spherical and interact with each other through van der Waals forces. Unlike simpler liquids, water's orientation-dependent hydrogen bonding leads to open tetrahedral cage-like structuring that contributes to its remarkable volumetric and thermal properties.

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