What is it about?

Water is everywhere and plays a critical role in biological, chemical, and physical systems. We have shown that rotations of one water molecule can change the rotational frequencies of another. We have observed spectral signatures of previously unseen metastable water complexes, suggesting these complexes have multiple preferred bimolecular geometries.

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Why is it important?

Our work directly reveals the presence of previously unseen metastable water complexes with lifetimes of 100 ps or longer. These transient water complexes are previously inaccessible and may help resolve elusive behaviors of water. Our finding also deepens the understanding of water dynamics in the gas phase, and hence is crucial for creating a panorama of the research on water.


Water has been extensively investigated for decades using various methods. People know tremendous aspects of water from its structure, property, hydrogen-bond effect to its roles in chemical reactions and biological metabolism. Then what more could we learn from it? Our work shows even in the gas phase where the intermolecular interactions between water molecules are much weaker than in liquids and solids, water molecules can still surprise us. We hope our finding can inspire readers and ourselves to think up more stimulating research ideas.

Yaqing Zhang
Michigan State University

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This page is a summary of: Nonlinear rotational spectroscopy reveals many-body interactions in water molecules, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2020941118.
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