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Pollack G.H. Water, Energy and Life

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Published on Apr 25, 2011

32d Annual Faculty Lecture.

It is generally thought that the impact of surfaces on the contiguous aqueous phase extends to a distance of no more than a few water-molecule layers. Older studies, on the other hand, suggest a more extensive impact. We report here that colloidal and molecular solutes suspended in aqueous solution are profoundly and extensively excluded from the vicinity of various hydrophilic surfaces. The width of the solute-free zone is typically several hundred microns. Such large exclusion zones were observed in the vicinity of many types of surface including artificial and natural hydrogels, biological tissues, hydrophilic polymers, monolayers, and ion-exchange beads, as well as with a variety of solutes. Using microscopic observations, as well as measurements of electrical potential and UV-Vis absorption-spectra, infrared imaging, and NMR imaging, we find that the solute-free zone is a physically distinct and less mobile phase of water that can co-exist indefinitely with the contiguous solute-containing phase. The extensiveness of this modified zone is impressive, and carries broad implication for surface-molecule interactions in many realms, including cellular recognition, biomaterial-surface antifouling, bioseparation technologies, and other areas of biology, physics and chemistry.

University of Washington, Seattle, USA

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