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ESF conference probes water's mysterious interactions at molecular level
Date:4/11/2008

Some of the most challenging problems in science concern the behaviour of the most commonplace compound on the planets surface - water. But some of the mysteries are now being unravelled by the latest analysis and imaging techniques in an unfolding story that was presented at a recent conference organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) focusing on interaction between water and other compounds at the molecular level.

Some of the greatest puzzles involve the interaction between molecules of water and other compounds as they come into proximity. These problems are not purely academic, because they have vital implications for understanding many important processes and biochemical reactions within organisms, some of them implicated in human disease. The molecular properties of water also have great importance for materials science, nanotechnology, and the semiconductor industry.

The underlying problem is that at the molecular level the behaviour of water and particularly interactions with other substances is extremely complex, and correspondingly difficult to explain in a few words. Before some of the exotic effects can be exploited, they must be thoroughly understood, and this in turn depends upon being able to observe the processes in some way. A major focus of the ESF conference was on new techniques for revealing information about the behaviour of water at the molecular scale in different circumstances, according to the conferences chair Marie-Clare Bellissent-Funel. Various techniques were used to reveal information of water at solid, soft, vapour, protein, membrane, and other interfaces, she said.

High resolution x-ray diffraction is an important technique for analysing water molecules at interfaces, observing the way high-energy x-ray beams are scattered at the points of interaction. The location and orientation of individual water molecules can be detected that way, and already a lot has been learned about the crucial role playe
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Contact: Marie-Claire Bellissent-Funel
marie-claire.bellissent-funel@cea.fr
33-016-908-6066
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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