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Research Highlight

Quantum Tunneling of Ultraconfined Water

Topics: Advanced Materials Neutron Science
Charge density slices in the ab-plane of beryl overlain on the beryl structure. A macroscopic green beryl crystal (emerald) is also shown.

Scientific Achievement

Found that, when confined in the ~ 5 Å wide channels in a beryl crystal, the water molecule undergoes quantum tunneling between six symmetrically equivalent positions around the c-axis in the structure.

Significance and Impact

First evidence of a new quantum tunneling state of the water molecules. 

Research Details

  • We document the discovery of a new “quantum tunneling state” of the water molecule confined in 5 Å channels in the mineral beryl, characterized by extended proton and electron delocalization.
  • Several neutron scattering techniques/instruments were used to document and confirm this discovery.
  • Results were confirmed and further explained using ab initio simulations.
  • This presents a new state of the water molecule, having an anomalously small proton kinetic energy due to spatial delocalization, and a modified center of gravity and dipole.

A.I. Kolesnikov, G.F. Reiter, N. Choudhury, T.R. Prisk, E. Mamontov, A. Podlesnyak, G. Ehlers, A. Seel,  D.J. Wesolowski, and L.M. Anovitz, Phys Rev Lett, 116, 167802 2016.  DOI: