News of the WeekCONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS

Getting to the Bottom of Water

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Science  29 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5402, pp. 614-615
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5402.614

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Summary

In 1935, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling suggested that the standard picture of electrostatic attractions--so-called hydrogen bonds--joining water molecules in water and ice may not be complete. He proposed that the influence of the strong "covalent" bonds within each water molecule leaks into the hydrogen bonds and lends a hand in binding one molecule to the next. More recently, quantum theory supported Pauling's view, and now researchers have probed the bonds in ice with intense x-rays and found that he was right. The result, reported in the 18 January issue of Physical Review Letters, will allow researchers to refine their models of water and ice assuming that the bonds between molecules are part covalent and part electrostatic.