Everyone talks about water and I don’t believe there is a human being who at least once in their life hasn’t referred to water as H-2- OH, making reference of course to the chemical representation of water which is H2O. Many also know that this designation means that water consists of 2 atoms of Hydrogen and one of oxygen. This jargon has been handed down between generations and we all speak fondly, and comfortably of water in these terms. While this terminology is absolutely accurate let’s uncover some other scientific stuff about water.
The first thing to notice about the water molecule is that it has a slight (partial) positive electrical charge at the parts where the hydrogen atoms are, and a slight (partial) negative charge at the end where the oxygen atom is. In chemistry this is called a dipole moment. In our lives this has significant implications.
The charged, dipole nature of the water molecule cause it to dissolve many other compounds and materials. For instance, the dipole characteristic allows water to dissolve common table salt, NaCl, into Sodium ions Na+, and Chloride ions Cl-. This characteristic has caused scientists to label water as “The Universal Solvent”, as it dissolves more substances than any other liquid known in the universe. It is for this reason that pure water does not exist anywhere in nature. The moment a pure water droplet forms at the cloud, it begins dissolving everything it comes into contact with, and hence allowing contamination to enter the droplet. This is why lakes and ponds are green and often “yucky.”
The bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen atoms are known as hydrogen bonds. Their extreme strength is responsible for the unparalleled chemical stability of the water molecule. The strength of these bonds is the reason we will never see a propulsion engine that can work on water. Yes, we can break the bonds and make a prototype engine. However, the dirty little secret as that these experiments won’t work in real life because it requires 10 – 100 times more energy to break the hydrogen bonds than the energy released when the bonds are broken.
- Water expands when it freezes. Other liquids shrink when they freeze.
- Liquid water is slightly heavier than frozen water. For this reason, water freezes from the top down. For this reason fish always have a place to swim when the lake freezes.
- Water is a tremendous insulator as compared to other liquids. It is an excellent liquid for cooling things. Car radiator anyone?
- As mentioned above, water is the best solvent known to man. Nothing dissolves more substances.
- Water has the highest surface tension of any liquid. This allows the surface of water to resist penetration by other material. It explains why insects can float and even walk on the surface of water. It also explains why bubbles are round.
- Water is the only liquid, when frozen is slippery and can be skated on. The fun part is that science still cannot explain why this is.