back to article Meet the real spin doctors: Scientists tell H2O to chill out so they can separate isomers

Boffins have, for the first time, managed to separate water into its two isomeric forms to test how they react to stuff, according to a paper published in Nature Communications on Tuesday. You may or may not know that each water molecule exists in one of two slightly different structures: para-water and ortho-water. Both have …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

    Which expensive bottled water of the future will you prefer?

    1. fluffybunnyuk
      Pint

      Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

      dihydrogen monoxide in a silicon dioxide,sodium oxide,sodium carbonate,calcium oxide receptacle.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

        Or from a song by Richard Stilgoe,

        Mono sodium glutamate

        Takes the pattern off the plate.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

          Real men drink Para-water. 25% more reactive? Hard as nails and gives ya tannin a right tanning. It'll probably dissolve a Yorkie too! Orthofresh sounds like something a bird watcher would drink.

          But I digress. At least water quality would be verifiable, and expensive to produce. Which may not bother the peddlers of other reassuringly filtered tap waters.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

      Either/or. I just use it as a chaser while partaking of adult beverages.

    3. Martin Budden

      Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

      Whichever is preferred by brewer's yeast.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

        Whichever is preferred by brewer's yeast.

        I'll drink to that

    4. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

      Which expensive bottled water of the future will you prefer?

      And how long until Goop and similar emporia of woo start selling para-water as "25% more hydrating to regenerate your cells faster"?

      1. no_handle_yet

        Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

        There is still work to be done here before we can say for sure which one is best for your chakra. To start drinking either of these without knowing which has the most vibrations could be almost as dangerous as allowing your crystal to run out of quantums. Hopefully professor Paltrow has a team on this as we speak.

  2. Richard Jones 1
    Joke

    New Bath Taps?

    But will I need new bath taps or shower controls to gain any advantage from either type of water. I am assuming that the more reactive form cleans better?

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Go

      Re: New Bath Taps?

      Your new taps will have a 15kV potential difference between them! This will reduce your shower time and save water.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: New Bath Taps?

      Any Aquafile will tell you you need Mono-directional Oxygen-free, silver coated with a carbon filament taps for optimum flow to taste ratios.

      You can pick them up for around £1999.99 if you shop around. Oh that's each.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: New Bath Taps?

        Can an aquafile be used to create smoother water?

  3. Scott Marshall
    Pint

    The most important question is ...

    ... which isomer is preferred for Scotch (for those who don't take it neat)?

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: The most important question is ...

      Either, as long as it's a few drops of liquid water and not ice...

  4. davcefai

    I suspect that this only holds true at the very low temperatures quoted in the article as the hydrogen atoms should be able to rotate freely as soon as some energy is available.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Boffin

      Down the plughole...

      "the hydrogen atoms should be able to rotate freely as soon as some energy is available."

      Clockwise or widdershins?

      (Depending on which isomer, and whether or not the plughole is in the Antipodes or not.*)

      *yes, iIknow, Mr Snopes....

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Down the plughole...

        That's "Mr. Mikkelson". HTH.

    2. Paul Kinsler
      Headmaster

      only holds true at the very low temperatures ...

      (a) "spin", as applied to subatomic particles, or atoms, isn't the same as mechanical rotation (because that is called angular momentum).

      (b) the nuclear spins referred to may not be strongly coupled to the atomic motions of the molecules that (in aggregate) make up the temperature.

      It /might/ be that the temperature of the water has an effect on the nuclear spins of its constituent atoms on some relevant timescale, but it isn't necessarily so.

      1. Thoguht Silver badge

        Re: only holds true at the very low temperatures ...

        Apparently the spin is transferred relatively easily between molecules, and at any particular temperature there will be an equilibrium state between the different types of water. To keep a water molecule in a particular ortho or para state, you need to stop it interacting with other water molecules, which is what they did in this experiment.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: only holds true at the very low temperatures ...

          I don't think these are true isomers in the chemistry sense either, it usually implies a different configuration of atoms. These are actually going to be different quantum states but with the same configuration. Interesting they may have different reactivity though.

          Nuclear spin in water tends to reach equilibrium quite easily, NMR and MRI rely on this. In a magnetic field you have spin up and spin down states and they can only be kept out of equilibrium for short periods of time, the excess energy is lost or absorbed through interactions with surrounding nuclei over a couple of seconds at 3 tesla. Without an external field the only source of energy difference is the interaction between the spin states of the two nuclei, which is much smaller and therefore any inequality can decay much faster.

      2. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: only holds true at the very low temperatures ...

        (a) "spin", as applied to subatomic particles, or atoms, isn't the same as mechanical rotation (because that is called angular momentum).

        (b) the nuclear spins referred to may not be strongly coupled to the atomic motions of the molecules that (in aggregate) make up the temperature.

        It /might/ be that the temperature of the water has an effect on the nuclear spins of its constituent atoms on some relevant timescale, but it isn't necessarily so.

        While "rotate" is the wrong word the spins can be affected by the magnetic fields of nearby nuclei (i.e. in adjacent molecules), or even the overall motion of the water molecule itself as it moves or spins in local fields.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: only holds true at the very low temperatures ...

          Great yet another type of clothes detergent to buy.......

          Icon - Hanging my shirts up to dry.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: only holds true at the very low temperatures ...

            >Great yet another type of clothes detergent to buy.......

            You also have to buy the superconducting magnet to put the detergent liquid into which goes pops into the drum, don't you just love an pointless accessory up-sell ?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What determines how much of each isomer exists in any quantity of water? Is it purely random?

    Does the N2H also have isomer versions?

    What is the El Reg comment HTML tag for < sub >?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Seems obvious, but since you asked ...

      ... it's < sub >, but you have to be a badge holder. Not sure what that means for folks who habitually post AC. For more, see this:

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/01/register_comments_guidelines/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seems obvious, but since you asked ...

        "[...] but you have to be a badge holder. "

        Thanks for the pointer.

        Most of the tags reserved for badge holders would be helpful to everyone reading A/C comments that require formatting.

        I use A/C because I want each post to be judged on its own merits - not prejudged because I have said something agreeable or disagreeable to others in previous posts.

        It is interesting that it says < strike > was dropped in HTML5.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Seems obvious, but since you asked ...

          Again it seems obvious, however ... posting as AC doesn't make your posts stand alone on their own merit. Rather, it lumps them into the vast sea of AC posts, many of which are useless drivel. In some threads, change that "many" to "most". As a direct result, I'll usually pass up reading an AC post when I spot a name I recognize on the following post. I suspect I'm not alone.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Seems obvious, but since you asked ...

            "Rather, it lumps them into the vast sea of AC posts, many of which are useless drivel."

            It is my impression that A/C posts are generally as meaningful as named ones. For some names I have to exercise special consideration to avoid ignoring/accepting their points out of pre-judgemental bias.

            Anonymity in a public space was expected in my career to avoid any reflection on my company or customers. The same still holds true for some of my references. It is safer to always do A/C for all posts. Like TOR - my possible linked identity is swamped in the sea of other anonymous users.

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      They have different energy levels, at thermal equilibrium the probability of each state is proportional to e^(-E/kT) (k being Boltzmann's constant, k_{B}), you can work out the imbalance by doing (p1 - p2)/(p1 + p2) (or p1/(etc..), p2/(etc..), depending what you want to know) and will find it depends on the temperature and the energy difference. If the difference is much less than kT then it'll be 50:50, much greater then the lowest energy state will be more more prevalent, roughly the same puts you in an interesting transition area. The trick to an experiment like this is stopping the things interacting so thermal equilibrium doesn't come into play.

  6. Milton Silver badge

    That photo ...

    ... of the oriental lady crossing a city bridge with water in the background: it was chosen automatically by software because of the keyword "water", correct?

    And those awful puns (mostly thankfully missing from this article): for a while now I've been thinking that no self-respecting human could come up with such crap, and now it's clear—they are autogenerated by an AI (Artificial Idiot) as well, aren't they?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: That photo ...

      Water you afraid of bad puns for? Honestly, kids these days ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That photo ...

      She's one of the research team, or an El Reg journo, Shirley

    3. A. Coatsworth
      Trollface

      Re: That photo ...

      You'll find out humans are most definitely needed to come up with the kind of puns used by El Reg. At least until we have IA able to get utterly sh*tfaced (a requisite in order to come up with them)

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: absolute zero (-273°C, -459.67°F)

      If you're going to spell Fahrenheit correctly, you might as well do the same for Celsius.

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: absolute zero (-273°C, -459.67°F)

        I gratefully accept the rebuke, and I've withdrawn the post out of shame. In other news, I've now fixed my browser's spolling chicker. Cheers!

        p.s. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/british-english-dictionary-2/

      2. Scroticus Canis
        Boffin

        Re: absolute zero (-273.15°C, -459.67°F)

        FTFY.

        0 K would have worked.

  8. Nimby
    Joke

    Ice cold and refreshing: H2OMG!

    See amazing results with our newest energy drink! With our amazing technology to sort water molecules by spin, our new H2OMG! gives you 25% more reactive isometrics to maximize your workout!

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Ice cold and refreshing: H2OMG!

      @Nimby, sadly, this is almost a certainty. Watch the fridges of your local up-market health store soon.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Ice cold and refreshing: H2OMG!

      Is H2OMG! already brand? If not it should be.

  9. frank ly Silver badge

    This!

    This could explain how water is able to form a persistent memory of previously added substances even after many repeated dilutions. The arrangement and distribution of para-water and otho-water moleculues represents a binary memory store of previous 'experiences'. At last, a scientific explanation for homeopathy!

    1. xeroks

      Re: This!

      oh, please don't tell the homeopaths about the binary water. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
        Boffin

        "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

        Infinitesimally little in the case of homeopathy...

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

          Re: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

          And anyway, the correct way of looking at homeopathy is using quantummechanics, as I showed in my paper in Annals of Improbable Research years ago: It might work, as long as you don't look (pdf pre-print here)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This!

        Water should be allowed to identify as non-binary. Down with bi-nomality!

      3. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: This!

        oh, please don't tell the homeopaths about the binary water. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

        Homeopaths & 15KV? Sounds like a good combination to me.

        Mine's the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0”>pint of homeopathic lager</a>. Cheers!

  10. AS1

    Do dolphins have root access?

    Two states of water and so much ocean. You've got to credit Deep Thought for hiding all that compute power in plain site.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Do dolphins have root access?

      In Kansas?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sniffing Uranus

    Following on from recent reports about the atmosphere of our most innuendo'd planet, I wait with bated breath for the work to be extended to hydrogen sulfide so we can tell whether ortho-farts or para-farts will wrinkle the noses of our brave astronauts!

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The Vital Spark

    "A zap of up to 15kV across the deflector created an electric field that separated the molecules into para- and ortho-water."

    Para Handy, that

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just putin an idea out

    Could you murder someone by feeding them entirely para or ortho water and screwing up their bodies finely balanced biochemistry that relies on reaction rates? Or are the protons mobile enough for a glass of it to become racemic really quick?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Just putin an idea out

      Since you'd need to keep the water molecules cold enough to maintain isomeric purity then, yes, feeding someone several trillion trillion water molecules could indeed kill them. But then so would holding their head down in a puddle, so on the whole I don't think Vlad's favourite sons of Russia are likely to adopt this method.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Just putin an idea out

      Upvoted for the "putin"

  14. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Boffin

    Asymmetry in nature ...

    While an interesting instance, I think the bigger picture is exploring any asymmetries like this in nature could point towards more fundamental truths ?

  15. kurios

    Might the different hydrogen spin alignments provide different information in NMR, which is essentially imaging of hydrogen based on its nearby chemical environment?

  16. namke

    Interesting, but...

    ... I hope no-one works out how to make Ice-9!

  17. vincent himpe

    soon at a wholefoods near you

    Parawater and orthowater.

    let the discussions begin about which one is healthier.

    My bet is on the electrolytially distilled counterclockwise spinning alkaline orthowater.

    or is it raw parawater ? i can't keep them apart ...

    has anyone tried this with deuterium yet ?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: soon at a wholefoods near you

      But Ortho sells inorganic chemicals![0] There will never be an Ortho-anything at Whole Foods.

      Funny but true: One of the Whole Foods I shop at occasionally doesn't sell gluten. Something about all the gluten intolerant people who shop there being offended. So I told them I was vegan[1] and I needed the gluten to make satan[2], and to increase the protein content of my bread[3], and asked "doesn't Whole Foods cater to vegans?" ... I thought the store manager's head was going to explode. I always wondered what color puce was, now I know.

      [0] Note that I'm fully in favo(u)r of better living through chemistry, and almost always have several Ortho products about the place.

      [1] A little white lie in the name of scientific experimentation. So shoot me.

      [2] Yes, I know the alternative spelling.

      [3] True, actually. 1 Tbs (8g) gluten to 2 cups (250g) AP flour produces a fair approximation of so-called "bread flour" at a much lower price.

  18. JassMan Silver badge

    One possible use

    would be anywhere that you need de-ionised water such as power stations. These use extremely pure water to prevent early boiling through nucleation which is important if you are trying to produce superheated steam. The problem with super pure water is that it eats your boiler tubes (which is why it is called hungry water). If you could remove the para-water cost effectively, this could reduce the maintenance costs of steam circuits.

    1. Kernel

      Re: One possible use

      "The problem with super pure water is that it eats your boiler tubes (which is why it is called hungry water)."

      I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I seem to remember reading that drinking too much distilled water will do much the same to your bones - something to do with dissolved calcium in body fluids being at equilibrium with that in bone.

  19. wayward4now
    Alien

    Ice-Nine anyone??

  20. Pat Harkin

    How long until...

    ....we see the first clickbait "Have scientists found proof of homeopathy?"

  21. blue-eyes
    Thumb Up

    Homeopathy explained

    Need I say more?

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