16 September 2022
by Alex Brinded

When water is neither solid or liquid

A single-molecule thick layer of water is up to 1,000 times more electrically conductive than current battery materials.

a drop of water in the ocean
© a2eorigins / unsplash

University of Cambridge scientists have discovered that in a one-molecule layer water does not act like a liquid or a solid, and becomes highly conductive at high pressures.

To predict this unusual behaviour with a high degree of accuracy the researchers have detected new phases of water.

Nanconfined water behaves very differently from water we understand well, and is quite common, such as trapped between membranes in human bodies or in tiny nanoscale cavities.

Using a combination of computational approaches the phases they found one-molecule layer thick water goes through includes a hexatic one - where it is neither solid or liquid. In the superionic phase, which occurs at higher pressures, the water is higly conductive, propelling protons quickl;y through ice like electrons in a conductor.

Their approach suggests that this hexatic phase can be seen experimentally by confining water in a graphene channel.

The research team say the superionic phase could be important for future electrolyte and battery materials as it has an electrical conductivity 100-1,000 times higher than current battery materials.



Alex Brinded

Staff Writer