The Method of ‘Caging’ Water Molecules

The Method of ‘Caging’ Water Molecules

By Shinji Tutoru

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON, SOUTHAMPTON, UK. Several scientists came together to study the method of ‘caging’ and cooling water molecules. The method allows them to study the change in orientation of the magnetic nuclei at the center of each hydrogen atom. This process causes the molecule to transform from one form of water to another. The scientists were able to track the change in form of the water molecules by trapping it in carbon spheres and then cooling them.

Each water molecule can either be one of two isomers. Ortho is where the nuclear spins are parallel to one another and para is where the spins are antiparallel. In the same sense, most scientists believe that either one is capable of transforming from ortho- into para- spin states and vice versa. This process is also known as nuclear spin conversion.

Right now, how the nuclear spin conversion actually happens and how long it takes to complete the entire process is still not completely understood.

The study is led by post-doctoral physicist at the University of Southampton, Salvatore Mamone. He claimed that in order for them to study the process, they had to figure out how to reduce the strong intermolecular interactions that are responsible for grouping of molecules and lowering the rotational mobility of the water molecules. To do this, they had to isolate the water molecules from one-another by ‘caging’ them in fullerene (C60, also known as a buckyball) spheres.

To open up a hole in the spheres that will allow them to inject the water molecules in, they use chemical reactions. This process is done quickly before the ‘cages’ are closed. “Because the molecules are kept separate by the cages, there is a large rotational freedom that makes observation of the ortho and para isomers possible.”

Although it may seem illogical and useless to do such process, the results may help enhance the diagnostic power of MRI scans in the near future.

Invention Researchers Watch Water Molecules Transform Inside Cage
Organization University of Southampton
Researcher Salvatore Mamone & Team
Field(s) water molecules, water, health
Further Information

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