Polywater

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Polywater was a hypothetical polymerized form of water that was the subject of much scientific controversy during the late 1960s. By 1969 the popular press had taken notice, and by 1970 doubts about its authenticity were being circulated.[1][2][3] By 1973 it was found to be illusory.[4] Today is used as an example of pathological science.

Contents

Background

The Soviet physicist Nikolai Fedyakin, working in Kostroma, Russia, had performed measurements on the properties of water that had been condensed in, or repeatedly forced through, narrow quartz capillary tubes. Some of these experiments resulted in what was seemingly a new form of water with a higher boiling point, lower freezing point, and much higher viscosity than ordinary water, about that of a syrup.

Boris Derjaguin, director of the laboratory for surface physics at the Institute for Physical Chemistry in Moscow, heard about Fedyakin's experiments. He improved on the method to produce the new water, and though he still produced very small quantities of this mysterious material, he did so substantially faster than Fedyakin did. Investigations of the material properties showed a substantially lower freezing point of −40 °C or less, a boiling point of 150 °C or greater, a density of approx. 1.1 to 1.2 g/cm³, and increased expansion with increasing temperature. The results were published in Soviet science journals, and short summaries were published in Chemical Abstracts in English, but Western scientists took no notice of the work.

In 1966, Derjaguin travelled to England for the "Discussions of the Faraday Society" in Nottingham. There he presented the work again, and this time English scientists took note of what he referred to as anomalous water. English scientists then started researching the effect as well, and by 1968 it was also under study in the United States.

By 1969 the concept had spread to newspapers and magazines.[1][2] There was fear by the United States military that there was a polywater gap with the Soviet Union.[5]

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