The Fourth State of Water


By Divvij Chandna


Recently, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Lab have discovered that water exists in a fourth state other than solid, liquid and gas. It exhibits this state called tunnelling when it is put under high pressure in small spaces.

The most interesting fact about this state is that it doesn’t follow the laws of classical physics, it shows properties related to quantum mechanics. The characteristic shown by this state is quantum tunnelling.

Tunnelling means that the molecules can cross a certain obstacle, be on both sides of it at the same instant or be somewhere in between. For example, if a ball is dropped down a valley, it won’t be able to go higher than the height it was dropped. But according to quantum physics, there is chance that the ball can be on the other side of the hill or inside it.

Water, when found in minuscule six sided channels of the mineral beryl, shows tunnelling. Because of this, the water molecules were present in multiple states at the same time. This lead to the hydrogen atom not being found at one position but in a ring shape around the oxygen in six different orientations.