Researchers at EPFL have discovered that the viscosity of solutions of electrically charged polymers dissolved in water is influenced by a quantum effect. This tiny quantum effect influences the way water molecules interact with one another.
Yet, it can lead to drastic changes in large-scale observations. This effect could change the way scientists understand the properties and behavior of solutions of biomolecules in water, and lead to a better understanding of biological systems.
Water is the basis of all life on earth. Its structure is simple – two hydrogen atoms bound to one oxygen atom – yet its behavior is unique among liquids, and scientists still do not fully understand the origins of its distinctive properties.
When charged polymers are dissolved in water the aqueous solution becomes more viscous than expected. This high viscosity is used by nature in the human body. The lubricating and shock-absorbing properties of the synovial fluid – a solution of water and charged biopolymers – is what allows us to bend, stretch and compress our joints over our entire lives without damage.
In a study published in Science Advances, researchers from the Laboratory for Fundamental BioPhotonics (LBP) at EPFL’s School of Engineering have shed new light on the viscosity of aqueous solutions. They showed that, contrary to the traditional view that repulsive interactions between polymers are solely responsible for the increase in viscosity, a nuclear quantum effect between water molecules also has a part to play.
Source: “Liquid flow is influenced by a quantum effect in water”, EPFL News, STI