Thursday, September 28, 2023

A chemistry professor explains why ‘structured water’ is complete and utter BS

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Shreya Christina
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Is there a “fourth phase of water”? From time to time you see people talking about the health benefits of so-called hexagonal water, or structured water, or water from the exclusion zone (EZ).

A few weeks ago, Kourtney Kardashian’s Poosh website was Sprout a US$2,500 “structured water filter”.

Last weekend, even Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald sprang into action with a now-deleted story about the virtues of ‘structured water’.

So what’s going on?

As a chemistry professor, I can tell you that “EZ water” is bullshit. But let’s talk about what it should be and how it should work.

What is EZ water?

EZ water has its origin in observations by Gerald Pollack, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington. He studied the behavior of water near “hydrophilic” surfaces, which are made of materials with a very strong attraction to water.

Pollack found that water pushes objects such as plastic microspheres, salt and even dye molecules from the region close to a highly hydrophilic surface.

Pollack’s explanation for this behavior is that the structure of water changes in the “exclusion zone”.

While water molecules are made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (with the well-known formula H₂O), Pollack believes that EZ water has an extra hydrogen atom and an extra oxygen atom (formula H₃O₂). This change presumably results in a negative electrical charge and a layered hexagonal network arrangement of atoms in the water.

Hydrophilic surfaces exist in the cells of the human body, so some have argued that EZ water is “more natural” than regular water and should therefore have many health benefits.

Weak health claims

The now deleted Sydney Morning Herald article interviewed a so-called expert in water structure science named Rob Gourlay.

He makes many general claims about structured water: it’s more natural, it has a negative electrical charge, it flows into our cells faster than regular water, and it has many other purported health benefits.

Although the article didn’t mention it, a quick search reveals Robert Gourlay’s job title as: “chief scientist” of a company called Phi’onwhich sells water structuring equipment.

From plausible to ridiculous

Let’s take a look at these claims. Some are plausible, others ridiculous.

We know that water behaves differently near an interface with another substance because it no longer only interacts with other water molecules. Surface tension is a well-known example of this phenomenon.

We also know that water behaves differently when confined in a very small space, on a scale of billionths of a meter.

There is therefore no particular reason to be immediately skeptical of Pollack’s experimental findings on the behavior of water in the “exclusion zone”. They are indeed interesting, and many aspects have been reproduced.

But Pollack’s explanations for the behavior have no basis.

Follow the atoms

If water were to somehow turn into an H₃O₂ form, simple arithmetic shows that changing two H₂O molecules into one of H₃O₂ would leave an extra hydrogen atom.

We would expect this hydrogen to be released as H₂ gas. Alternatively, the reaction should extract additional oxygen from the air. A simple experiment would show that neither happens.

EZ water, for all its interesting properties, cannot be different from H₂O. Pollack does not propose the H₃O₂ structure in a peer-reviewed publication, and other explanations have been put forward to explain his published experimental findings.

And the hexagonal structure for H₃O₂ that Pollack proposes, if it were stable and rigid, would not flow like a liquid.

Water has no memory

But suppose that water in the exclusion zone had a special structure. Can it be bottled and keep its properties?

All signs point to no.

In water with a neutral pH (neither acidic nor alkaline), about one molecule in every billion has an extra hydrogen atom that has jumped from another molecule. This creates one positively charged H₃O+ ion and one negatively charged OH ion.

The extra protons (H+) that H₃O . to make+ ions are highly mobile – they jump quickly from one molecule to another. This happens so quickly that each of the hydrogen atoms in a given water molecule is replaced 1000 times per second.

There are also short-lived attractions between the oxygen atoms in one molecule and the hydrogen atoms in a neighboring molecule called “hydrogen bonds”. In liquid water at room temperature, these bonds last only a millionth of a millionth of a second.

The rapid movement of hydrogen atoms and the flickering on and off of hydrogen bonds means that any structure in EZ water would disappear very quickly. In bulk, water has forgotten its neighbors within picoseconds and hydrogen atoms have exchanged in milliseconds. That’s why it’s liquid.

Experiments with intense laser pulses to disrupt the structure of water also show that the recovers within picoseconds. So any bulk water structure that’s different from the usual kind that flows out of our faucets won’t last much longer than a few millionths of a millionth of a second.

water is water

So what does it all add? Simply put, it is not possible to buy any kind of water other than plain water. You can change the pH, you can change the dissolved ions and gases, but not the water itself.

The snake oil traders who sell structured water products use scientific-sounding words that are generally meaningless and based at best on misinterpretations and abuses of Pollack’s experiments.

Pollack distances itself from most companies that sell structured water products. He has his own structured water company, which sells, among other things, a ‘filterless water filter’.The conversation

This article was republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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