Wait… Water has a 2nd Liquid State?

By Luke Wonnell

If you’re like me then you remember learning in High School chemistry or pre-req college courses that water has 3 states: solid, liquid and gas right? Water becomes solid ice below 32⁰F, exists as a liquid between 33⁰F and 212⁰F and starts to boil off to a gas at 212⁰F. While these critical points remain, it turns out the liquid state may be a lot more complex than we originally thought.  A little over a year ago, an international team of scientists and physicians made an incredible discovery – water may very well have a 2nd liquid state!  What the what… how was this not major news?

As this team was conducting their experiments, they discovered remarkable changes to the physical properties of liquid water when heated between 40⁰C and 60⁰C (104⁰F and 140⁰F). When the “crossover temperatures” were reached, the researches noticed significant changes to the thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity and surface tension of the water in addition to several other physical properties.

I say “crossover temperatures” as plural because each physical property changed at different temperatures!  For example, the crossover temperature for thermal conductivity was 64⁰C (147⁰F), whereas the crossover temperature for surface tension was 57⁰C (134.6⁰F) and the crossover temperature for electrical conductivity was 53⁰C (127⁰F)… mind blown!

There’s still a lot of work to be done to understand the full impact of this discovery, but just think about what effects this might have on a typical condensing boiler system or domestic hot water system because these “crossover temperatures” are within the appliance’s normal operating range:

  • The Good: Increased thermal conductivity would mean the boiler or water heater is able to transfer the heat of combustion into the water more efficiently.
  • The Bad: Increased electrical conductivity could accelerate the effects of Galvanic corrosion since the water is able to more efficiently facilitate the flow of electrons.
  • Higher surface tension might require more pump horsepower to flow the same amount of water and make Oxygen elimination less effective.