What is it about?

While drinking your glass of water, you are probably not thinking about how weird this liquid is. Water is one of the most studied substances, yet many of its properties are difficult to rationalize. For example, you know that an ice cube floats on water, but this is very weird, as most materials are denser in the solid state. The uniqueness of water is rooted in the dynamic of hydrogen bonds, which break and form very quickly, on a picosecond timescale… which is one millionth of one millionth of a second!. With the aid of sophisticated time-resolved experiments performed at an international facility, we aimed to have a closer look at these bonds.

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Why is it important?

Microwaves ovens work: you turn it on, it generates microwaves, the microwaves are absorbed by the water in your food, and the meal warms up. However, we do not really know how the water molecules are moving in the applied electric (microwave) field. In order to try to address this open issue, we used very large and very fast electric fields, and detected the signal transmitted from water.


The way electromagnetic radiation interacts with water is fundamental for our life and our planet. While several different, competing models have been proposed to explain the non-linear THz signals in water, the experimental finding reported here suggests that we might prefer ones for which there is a weak temperature-dependence of the nonlinear signal.

Fabio Novelli
Ruhr University Bochum

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Temperature-independent non-linear terahertz transmission by liquid water, AIP Advances, November 2022, American Institute of Physics,
DOI: 10.1063/5.0120417.
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