The Department of Polymer Science (Professor Judit E. Puskas) and the Mary Schiller Myers School of Art (Professor Matthew Kolodziej) at the University of Akron hosted this lecture.
The Synapse theme for 2010 is WATER. School children learn that water has three phases: solid, liquid and vapor. But we have recently uncovered what appears to be a fourth phase. This phase is present next to water-loving (hydrophilic) surfaces. It is surprisingly extensive, projecting out from the surface by up to millions of molecular layers. Its presence may open the door to understanding diverse natural phenomena — wherever water is present.
Of particular significance is the observation that this fourth phase is charged. And, the water just beyond this charged zone is oppositely charged, creating a battery that can produce current. We found that this battery is recharged by light. Thus, water can receive and process electromagnetic energy drawn from the environment — much like plants. The absorbed light energy can then be exploited for performing work, including electrical and mechanical work. Recent experiments confirm this.
The energy-conversion framework implied above seems rich with implication. Not only does it provide an understanding of how water processes solar energy, but also it may provide a foundation for simpler understanding many natural phenomena ranging all the way from weather and green energy to the origin of life.
The lecture presented evidence for the presence of this fourth phase of water, and will consider its potentially broad implications for physics, chemistry and biology.
This lecture is made possible through Grant #DMR-0804878 from the National Science Foundation, in a framework of a new program connecting science and art, to broaden the horizon for students of both disciplines.
For more on his work, visit http://faculty.washington.edu/ghp/.