Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Interesting to say the least is a new state of matter scientists have discovered and termed ‘quantum spin liquid’. So in addition to the three states; solid, liquid, & gas now a fourth has been added where water molecules exist in conditions of extreme confinement. 



In physics, a state of matter is one of the distinct forms that matter takes on. Four states of matter are observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma so actually we already have a fourth state, so then a fifth state? 


Do you remember a discovery back in 2008 that has led to a different look at how to do long distance space travel? To recap, ‘Glassy Water’ and its possible use in cryogenic sleep (it is a super-cooled water that exists in nature and doesn’t freeze) were announced and at the time it too was referred to the new state of matter.


Maybe the definition of matter will solve the oddities that surround water. Matter is everything around you. It is big and it is really small. All atoms and molecules are composed of matter. Basically it is anything that takes up space. 


So back to the quantum spin liquid AND the glassy water.


First, quantum spin liquid – for this form to occur the water molecules, which are made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, are restricted into channels in the mineral beryl, where each water molecule is only one angstrom across (a unit of length = 10–10 meter; used mostly in reference to wavelength or interatomic distances). The mineral beryl by the way is Be3AL2(Si O3)6 and can be found in some Emeralds (see photo below) or the clear yellow beryl, such as the one that occurs in Brazil, is sometimes called aquamarine chrysolite. There is also a deep blue version of aquamarine called maxixe and many other geological examples. But back to this form, it is forced into these channels, forced confinement. This sort of water was previously discovered but since it was only in the lab, not deemed a new state of matter. Then it was found in the wild showing with the odd tunneling behavior that occurs when the water becomes delocalized. As previously stated, the mineral beryl is often present, or it can also be found in environments like dirt, other mineral interfaces and cell walls. Not to question research scientists but it seems that if the grouping of quantum spin liquid requires so much other things to exist than is it actually a state of matter?



On to Glassy Water – First off, it is pure water. Taken cold, glassy water is then heated, but one will find that its heat capacity barely changes until about 136 K (-215 F), and then it begins to increase slightly. Around 150 K (-190 F), it crystallizes and stops being glassy. On the other side, super cooling water produces a similarly odd effect: Heat capacity remains constant as the water cools until around 250 K (-10 F), when it begins to increase very rapidly with decreasing temperature. Odd, no? 


So consider each definition. Only one requires no outside interaction and that is the glassy water. Seems more like a new state, but then if one were to think a bit more about it, what is in common with these two, water. So possibly water itself should be examined as this simple thing may have even more oddities to offer. These phenomenon may be particular to simple compounds such as H2O (perhaps we should look at other simple compounds as well?) or to water alone. Either way the two situations because they both occur with water, require that water be looked at more in depth.


In addition to the strangeness of declaring both existences a new state of matter, the fact that one of the two refers only to a quantum state as commented by the lead author of the study (Dr. Alexander Kolesnikov) referring to quantum spin liquid, this particular occurrence is only in quantum mechanics and has no parallel in our daily lives.


Seeing that both liquid variations offer possible uses or inventions in actual life (not just quantum) perhaps as mentioned before, water itself needs a much stronger look. The tunneling that is referred to in the quantum spin liquid allows a particle, such as Hydrogen, to go through a wall without the energy losses that classical physics requires. Glassy Water offers its own oddities to aid the cryogenic sleep as becoming not truly frozen. The main problem in cryogenics is the fact that the ice that forms in the human body and when thawed tends to burst or rupture the cells and hence the resumption of full use of the organs. {Of course cryogenics has expanded as if working with noble gases and other sorts of methods: heat conduction, evaporative cooling, cooling by rapid expansion (the Joule-Thomson effect), and adiabatic demagnetization.}

In conclusion, much more should be examined and reviewed before considering these a new state of matter when perhaps more needs to be understood. Perhaps this is instead a breakthrough to a new level in physics that we are trying to understand with old rules. OR perhaps we are assigning new rules to things we haven’t yet come to fully understand. Recommendation: try zooming out and looking at not only these specific happenings but looking at other simple compounds and seeing what the reactin might be.


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