WATERSTRUC - Structured Water and its Implications for Biology, Chemistry and Physics

Water close to surfaces and water-based substances such as biofilm can have liquid crystal properties.

Water itself can form macroscopic structures, similar to ice but in a liquid state. Such structures can cause particle and charge separation.

This multidisciplinary project will study aqueous liquid crystals and their response to electromagnetic fields and other stimuli.

Liquid water can form large self-organized ice-like structures around ions and particles as well as close to surfaces. There is strong evidence for two states of liquid water – low and high density water (LDW/HDW) [1]–[3]. Experimental evidence shows that particle-free zones can extend up to hundreds of microns from surfaces [4], [5]. Water structures are also proposed to form coherent domains [6].

Structured water is proposed as an intermediate phase between liquid water and ice [7]. Such water separates charge, creating a “water battery” that can produce electrical current, driven by infrared light [8]. Spontaneous water flow driven by infrared radiation has been observed in narrow hydrophilic tubes, an effect that can add to the understanding of transport in biological systems [9]. A pH gradient has also been reported [10].

Polarized light microscopy shows birefringency properties in living tissue [11] and biofilm [12], indicating liquid crystallinity in living organisms [11], [13], [14]. Biological liquid crystals are often attributed to proteins. However, the importance of water has likely been underestimated.

A key question of this project is: Can water itself form macroscopic long-range liquid crystals and what would the implications be for the natural sciences?


[1]      M. F. Chaplin, “Water Structure and Science,” 2018. [Online]. Available: http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/water_structure_science.html. [Accessed: 21-Mar-2018].

[2]      P. Wiggins, “Life depends upon two kinds of water,” PLoS One, vol. 3, no. 1, p. e1406, Jan. 2008.

[3]      C. Huang et al., “The inhomogeneous structure of water at ambient conditions.,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., vol. 106, no. 36, pp. 15214–8, Sep. 2009.

[4]      J.-M. Zheng and G. H. Pollack, “Long-range forces extending from polymer-gel surfaces,” Phys. Rev. E, vol. 68, no. 3, pp. 1–7, 2003.

[5]      G. H. Pollack, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid and Vapor. Ebner & Sons Publishers, 2013.

[6]      E. Del Giudice, G. Preparata, and G. Vitiello, “Water as a Free Electric Dipole Laser,” Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 61, no. 9, pp. 1085–1088, Aug. 1988.

[7]      E. So, R. Stahlberg, G. H. Pollack, and H. G. Pollack, “Exclusion zone as intermediate between ice and water,” WIT Trans. Ecol. Environ., vol. 153, pp. 3–11, Dec. 2011.

[8]      B. Chai, H. Yoo, and G. H. Pollack, “Effect of Radiant Energy on Near-Surface Water,” J. Phys. Chem. B, vol. 113, no. 42, pp. 13953–13958, Oct. 2009.

[9]      C. O’Rourke, I. Klyuzhin, J. S. Park, and G. H. Pollack, “Unexpected water flow through Nafion-tube punctures,” Phys. Rev. E, vol. 83, no. 5, p. 056305, May 2011.

[10]    A. Klimov and G. H. Pollack, “Visualization of charge-carrier propagation in water,” Langmuir, vol. 23, no. 23, pp. 11890–11895, Nov. 2007.

[11]    M.-W. Ho, The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms, 3rd ed. World Scientific Publishing Company; 3 edition, 2008.

[12]    P. R. R. Secor et al., “Filamentous Bacteriophage Promote Biofilm Assembly And Function,” Cell Host Microbe, vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 549–559, Nov. 2015.

[13]    Joseph Needham, Order and Life. Yale University Press, 1936.

[14]    M. W. Ho et al., “The Liquid Crystalline Organism and Biological Water,” in Water and the Cell, 2006, pp. 219–234.


This project is kindly supported by VILLUM FONDEN (part of THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS) a philanthropic foundation that supports technical and scientific research as well as environmental, social and cultural projects in Denmark and internationally.


Johan Kronholm
Senior Researcher
DTU Chemical Engineering