In was observed at both ends of the

In 1961 in the “Technological Institute of Kostroma”, Russia,
a Russian physicist Nikolai Fedyakin carried experiments which led to the
discovery of a different form of water inexplicably similar to that of the subject
of popular film and fiction novels years later. These experiments resulted in
an apparent new form of water being synthesised with very different properties
to that of natural water.

Nikolai Fedyakin’s experiments to synthesise this new form of
water or ‘polywater’ were conducted by first condensing normal water vapour in
Pyrex or quartz capillary tubes. The water was forced to condense within the
narrow capillary tubes. The diameter of the capillary tubes was noted to be
between 2 and 4 µm.?
The process of forcing
the water vapour through the narrow capillary tubes made sure the sample was
pure.  The tubes were arranged beside
each other horizontally in a chamber that was sealed off to the external
environment. In the chamber, Fedyakin placed 2.5-5cm of water at the end of the
chamber. The vapour was created by decreasing the pressure inside the chamber
which then caused the water to evaporate. The sample was allowed to cool and
condense back inside the narrow tubes. After any remaining water vapour in the
tube had been evaporated, a strange residue was observed at both ends of the
capillary tube. This mysterious residue formed over the course of several
hours. This residue had been described as a “thick, colourless residue that
will not freeze or boil in the manner of regular water”. (2). The consistency of this residue was
akin to Vaseline. Scientists could not explain what this new, mysterious
substance was that had so simply been formed from ordinary water.

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This unusual and potentially world changing discovery reached
the “Director of the Laboratory for Surface Physics at the Institute for
Physical Chemistry, Moscow, Russia”.? Boris Derjaguin was the director of
the Institute at the time and was greatly involved in polywater research in the
late 60’s and 70’s. Derjaguin learned about Fedyakin’s experiments to
synthesise ‘polywater’ and decided to conduct his own experiments. Derjaguin improved
upon the methods used by Fedyakin to create this new form of water.  Derjguin succeeded in producing the
‘anomalous water’ in a much shorter period of time than Fedyakin did. Over the
course of a few years Derjaguin had published ten papers on the subject if
polywater alone.? The Irish crystallographer Desmond
Bernal, who was the first person to describe the molecular structure of
ordinary water molecules, is quoted saying that polywater is “the most
important physical-chemical discovery of the century”.? People became increasingly curios of this perplexing
material that they began attempting to synthesise their own. The great grandson
on Robert R. Stromberg who was one of the original scientists involved in the
polywater project described the tedious process as:

 

“He faithfully followed the Soviet process, using freshly drawn-out,
ultrathin Pyrex capillary tubes to avoid contamination. After condensing water
in the tubes and leaving them alone for about 18 hours, he’d return to find
tiny bubbles of polywater congealing inside. He painstakingly extracted the
stuff with a syringe, drop by drop, and over the course of months, was able to
amass a gram or two of it”.?

 

However, only minute quantities of the new form of water
could be produced at a time due to the extremely narrow capillary tubes
required to conduct the experiment.? 
This had several disadvantages through the course of the experiments
including increasing the difficulty and time required to analyse this new,
mysterious material in order to investigate its unusual properties.  It also made it difficult to analyse the
substance to detect possible signs of contamination which may be responsible
for its perplexing properties.? It was said at the time of the
discovery and analysis of polywater that the world’s total polywater
synthesized and in existence in the world at that time could fit into a single
thimble. This proves just hoe difficult and time consuming it was to produce
enough samples of polywater to be able to analyse it and help demystify some of
its perplexing properties.

Fig2.2: Polywater
visible at ends of extremely narrow capillary tube?

Some of the properties of the newly discovered polywater
differ greatly from its close relative, water. Some of these properties include
the material solidifying at -40°C compared to water’s solidification at just
0°C.¹? At -40°C the polywater froze into a brown glass-like solid.
Polywater has a density of 1.01 g/cm³ which is lower than that of water’s
density of 1.4 g/cm³.¹? 
It was noted that polywater has a much higher viscosity than water.  Viscosity is 
measurement of the reluctance of a liquid to flow.  “It describes the internal friction of a
moving fluid”.¹¹ A fluid that possess a viscosity of a large magnitude
opposes motion as it has a molecular structure which provides it with a great
amount of “internal friction”.¹¹ 
The consistency of polywater has been likened to that of syrup or as
previously mentioned, Vaseline.? The boiling point of polywater was
discovered to be around 150°C which is much greater than water’s boiling point
of 100°C, considered to be one of the highest boiling points of any solvent. No
matter how much the polywater was heated or how high the temperature reached,
the polywater did not boil away.

Polywater has been discovered to be more resistant to boiling
and freezing with its boiling and freezing temperatures being -40°C and 150°C respectively.¹? The results of these experiments were published in science
journals in the Soviet Union. Summaries of the experiments and their results
were also translated into the English language and published in “Chemical
Abstracts”. However, scientists in the West such as American and British
scientists failed to take any notice of the published works in the early stages
of polywater’s discovery.

In 1966 Boris Derjaguin attended the “Discussion of the
Faraday Society.” This was held in Nottingham, England. While at the
conference, Derjaguin presented the studies completed into the discovery of and
analysis of polywater. This time, the English scientists were eager to pay
attention to what Derjaguin referred to as “anamolous water”.¹² It was at this point the English began their research into
polywater. By 1968 studies were being conducted on the subject in the US. By
1969 the idea of polywater had gone global.

The idea of the existence of a mysterious substance existed
long before Nikolai Fedyakin’s experiments in Russia. In the early 1920’s, a
chemist named Walter A. Patrick, who previously had invented silica gel,
observed that when gel was utilised to absorb any remaining water in an
experimental system and then tried to be evaporated, some water would always
remain behind with no clear explanation. Leon Shershefsky, who was one of
Walter A. Patrick’s graduates and a Russian immigrant completed his
dissertation on a phenomenon closely relating to this. Shershefsky reported
that when he “trapped tiny amounts of water in glass tubes, it too was more
resistant to evaporation than it should have been”. Several years later, K.M.
Chmutoy, a Soviet researcher discovered Shershefsky’s findings and began to
conduct his own research. Chmutoy conducted his own experiments and instead,
circumscribed the water in between a curved lens and a plate that was ensured
to be flat. Chmutoy followed this method in order to prove that the tube itself
was not responsible for causing this mysterious phenomenon. Chmutoy eventually
published his findings in 1949.?

The first published paper detailing the molecular structure
of polywater was published in June 1969, at the height of the discovery of and
excitement around polywater. The paper was simply entitled ‘Polywater’ as was
the first of many similar papers to come. It was discovered that the polywater
was made up of regularly repeating ordinary H?O molecules. It was from this
observation that the term ‘polywater’ was adopted due to polywater being
thought of as a polymer of ordinary water molecules. Polywater has an empirical
formula of (H?O)n. Polywater was composed of a web of hexagonal subunits. The
structure of polywater was likened to that of the structure of honeycomb. Familiar
H?O molecules were arranged tightly together and were locked
into a crystalline structure. It is this physical property that may explain
polywater’s high boiling point and low freezing temperature. Each hydrogen atom
in the hexagonal system is attached to two oxygens atoms, forming a strong
crystal lattice. Polywater was found to have a negative charge as opposed to
water’s neutral charge. The bond length of polywater was found to be ~2.3 Å.¹³ An O-H bond length in ordinary water is 0.96 Å.¹?

                 

Fig2.3: Molecular structure of Polywater¹³

The invention of polywater and the discovery of its unusual
physical properties would allow it to replace ordinary water due to its
enhanced capabilities.  Scientists
believed the invention of polywater and the discovery of its mysterious
physical properties would have a big impact on the world. Polywater, with its
enhanced properties, such as  having low
freezing point meant that it could possibly be used as an anti-freeze
agent.  Water is essential in processes
that can be seen in physics, chemistry and biology, therefore the discovery of
polywater was believed to have revolutionary applications to daily life when
used instead of ordinary water. Polywater possesses properties that would allow
it to run a metabolic system far more efficiently.? At the time of discovery, it was hypothesized that polywater
was present in human cells and could perform “special functions”. Polywater
would be a better vehicle for the transportation of energy around the body,
leading to it being a far more efficient that regular water. Due to polywater’s
difficulty in reverting back to forming a vapour, it was seen to have a
possible application in power plant processes. 
Polywater could be used instead of standard water as a more energy
efficient mode for the transportation of heat energy through a power plant as
one of its properties meant that it does not convert into steam easily. Due to
its higher boiling point of around 150°C, this means that polywater would be able
to transport a much greater amount of heat energy before it turns to vapour.
This increases the amount of energy that is able to be transported and helps to
minimise any heat loss which contributes to it being a far more energy
efficient mode of heat energy transportation through a power plant. Scientists
also saw applications for polywater as a steam engine lubricant and an
anti-corrosive agent due to it high viscosity. It was also believed to have a
possible use in nuclear power. Similar to power plant processes, due to
polywater’s resistance to turning into a vaporous form, it was thought to be
able to be used as a nuclear reactor shield to “protect against highly
penetrating radiations”.¹? Gamma rays and neutrons are examples
of such radiations.

The discovery of polywater was, at the time, thought to be
revolutionary. Its possible applications seemed endless. Another very
beneficial advantage of polywater were its starting materials. Ordinary water
is the major constituent of polywater. Water is the most abundant resource on
planet Earth. More than two thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by water.
Oceans make up the majority of this water content with 97% of the Earth’s
supply of water being contained in oceans while the remaining 3% can be found
in freshwater sources.¹? Due to the planet’s great abundance
of water, there would be no shortage in using it to synthesis polywater, seen
as a much better and efficient form of water with a much more broad field of
possible applications.