Exotic new states of water caused  Harvard researchers to question what we really know about one of the most common and abundant substances on the planet.

First there was the discovery that you can actually burn salt water (see related posts below) if you zap it with just the right radio frequency, fueling hopes that plain old seawater could someday be converted to abundant clean energy. Now researchers are finding that water forms a floating bridge when exposed to high voltages. Other researchers also recently discovered that you can make water stay frozen at very warm temperatures if you coat it with a special diamond mixture. These are all surprising twists stemming from H2O—the abundant substance we all thought we knew so well.

p { clear: none ! important; } Ads by Google Math Practice – Ages 5-14 A math website kids LOVE — Win awards, certificates, have fun! www.IXL.com/math Harvard physicists found that specially treated diamond coatings can keep hot water in a frozen state. (http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/09.20/09-hotice.html ) The researchers say the finding may be useful in certain medical implants, although others argue that diamonds might cause blood clots. In either case, the big news here is that diamonds can make water solid. Doctoral student Alexander Wissner-Gross and Efthimios Kaxiras, physics professor and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, found that even a very thing layer of diamond coated with sodium atoms will keep warm water in a solid state up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, researchers from the University of Technology in Austria recently discovered that when exposed to a high-voltage electric field, water in two beakers will climbs out and cross empty space to join, forming a water bridge that appears to defy gravity.

The researchers noticed a pattern with the inner structures: every experiment started with a single inner structure, which then decayed into additional structures after a few minutes of operation. The group believes this decay is caused by either dust contamination or the increasing temperature of the water bridge under the electric field. As the water temperature increased from 20 degrees Celsius to more than 60 degrees Celsius—which took about 45 minutes—the bridge will finally, inexplicably collapse.

The scientists explain that the unusual effect of the floating water bridge, as well as the microstructures they observed during the interaction of water with electric fields, could be another piece to the puzzle of the structure of water. The group said that they are currently investigating how highly ordered microstructures may explain the density change in the water bridge.

It may be one of the most important and abundant chemical compounds on Earth, but the properties of plain old water is still a puzzle to scientists. Researchers are still trying to uncover the nature of water beyond the H2O scale, governed by hydrogen bonds, which is thought to be responsible for water’s many unique possibilities.

Rebecca Sato with Casey Kazan