Water conducts electricity, but the process by which this familiar fluid passes along positive charges has puzzled scientists for decades.
But in a paper published in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Science, an international team of researchers has finally caught water in the act — showing how water molecules pass along excess charges and, in the process, conduct electricity.
“This fundamental process in chemistry and biology has eluded a firm explanation,” said co-author Anne McCoy, professor of chemistry. “And now we have the missing piece that gives us the bigger picture: how protons essentially ‘move’ through water.”
The team was led by Mark Johnson, senior author and a professor at Yale University. For over a decade, Johnson, McCoy and two co-authors — Professors Kenneth Jordan at the University of Pittsburgh and Knut Asmis at Leipzig University — have collaborated to understand how molecules in complex arrangements pass along charged particles.