Researchers at the joint EPFL-Empa lab in Sion have developed a reactor system and an analysis method that has allowed them to observe the real-time production of synthetic natural gas from CO2 and H2 for the first time. Infrared (IR) thermography is used to determine the temperature of hu ... more
Water is surprisingly ordered on the nanoscale
Nanometric-sized water drops are everywhere - in the air as droplets or aerosols, in our bodies as medication, and in the earth, within rocks and oil fields. To understand the behavior of these drops, it is necessary to know how they interact with their hydrophobic environment. This interaction takes places at the curved droplet interface, a sub-nanometric region that surrounds the small pocket of water. Researchers from EPFL, in collaboration with the institute AMOLF in the Netherlands, were able to observe what was going on in this particular region. They discovered that molecules on the surface of the drops were much more ordered than expected. They pave the way to a better understanding of atmospheric, biological and geological processes.
Unique perspective on miniscule droplets
At EPFL, Sylvie Roke, director of the Julia Jacobi Chair of Photomedicine-Laboratory for Fundamental BioPhotonics, has developed a unique method for examining the surface of these droplets that are as thick as one thousandth of a hair, with a volume of an attoliter. "The method involves overlapping ultrashort laser pulses in a mixture of water droplets in liquid oil and detecting photons that are scattered only from the interface", explains Roke. "These photons have the sum frequency of the incoming photons and are thus of a different color. With this newly generated color we can know the structure of the only the interface."
Hydrogen bonding as strong as in ice
The surface of the water droplets turns out to be much more ordered than that of normal water and is comparable to super cooled (liquid < 0 °C water) water in which the water molecules have very strong hydrogen bond interactions. In ice, these interactions lead to a stable tetrahedral surrounding of each water molecule. Surprisingly, this type of structure was found on the surface of the droplets even at the room temperature - 50 °C above were it would normally appear.
This research provides valuable insight into the properties of nanometric water drops. "The chemical properties of these drops depend on how the water molecules are organized on the surface, so it's really important to understand what's going on there," explained Roke. Further research could target the surface properties of water droplets with adding salt, a more realistic model of marine aerosols that consist of salty water surrounded by a hydrophobic environment. Salt may either enhance the water network or reduce its strength. "Or, it may not do anything at all. Given the surprising results found here, we can only speculate", says Roke.
- hydrogen bonds
Proteins are the building blocks of life and play a key role in all biological processes. Understanding how they interact with their environment is therefore vital to developing effective therapeutics and the foundation for designing artificial cells. Researchers at the Laboratory of Protei ... more
Theranostics is an emerging field of medicine whose name is a combination of "therapeutics" and "diagnostics". The idea behind theranostics is to combine drugs and/or techniques to simultaneously - or sequentially - diagnose and treat medical conditions, and also monitor the response of the ... more
EPFL scientists have elucidated for the first time how a notoriously elusive serotonin receptor functions with atom-level detail. The receptor transmits electrical signals in neurons and is involved in various disorders, meaning that the discovery opens the way for new treatments. The recep ... more
- 1analytica 2020: New instruments for battery research
- 2Ultrafast birth of free radicals observed in water
- 3Looking at the good vibes of molecules: a new method for label-free metabolic imaging
- 4Eppendorf with new CEO dual leadership
- 5A fine sense for molecules
- 6Complete filling of batches of nanopipettes
- 7Sensing Protein Wellbeing
- 8Researchers create nanoscale sensors to better see how high pressure affects materials
- 9Watching complex molecules at work
- 102D materials: arrangement of atoms measured in silicene