Water: The Incredible Molecule

Water is an incredible molecule that has some impressive properties, and there are so many questions that surround water. For instance, why is it present in such a large amount in our bodies? Why it is essential for life on Earth? Why it is this particular molecule instead of another? 

For starters, we see water in all of it’s states at Earth temperatures. If it didn’t behave the way that it did, many species worldwide could not exist. Ice is a classic example. Water forms a crystal lattice when it freezes which makes it less dense than water in liquid form. This very property means that ponds don’t freeze from the bottom up and the ice that forms at the top acts as an insulator, allowing the wildlife beneath it to survive.

Water is known as a universal solvent. In our body, this molecule is largely contained in our cells. It is part of what forms their shape as well as their ability to contain many molecules that are important for our bodies.

Water has some brilliant thermal properties. It has a high specific heat capacity. This means that large bodies of water require vast amounts of energy to heat. On a sunny day, the sea still feels cool. The result is a much more stable and consistent temperature for the various organisms that inhabit it.

Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’

A recent episode of Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’ focused on the water molecule, which was a real eye-opener. We’re surrounded by water all the time, not to mention being mostly made up of it ourselves, however we tend to not think about it much. The truth is that water is an exceptional substance! 

There are a number of different properties of water that are examined in the programme – the phenomenon of surface tension, the different kinds of ice that exist, the fact that water ice floats on top of water (it turns out that this doesn’t happen with any other kinds of ice), and water’s comparatively high boiling point. Again, the idea of something boiling at 100 degrees seems quite commonplace to most of us – yet almost every other liquid on the planet boils at a much lower temperature.

This last fact is linked to another of water’s unique – and useful – properties: the amount of energy that can be stored in it, and released at a later time. It is this property that makes water such a good thing to use when heating our homes. Unfortunately, most of the water that’s available for the purpose has high levels of calcium and magnesium in it (bonded to it in fascinating ways also discussed in the programme) and these give rise to the hard water problems that our water softeners are designed to alleviate.

This programme is free to download from the BBC website (In Our Time – Radio 4). 

We hope you found this overview on the incredible molecule of water useful.

We’ve been designing water softeners that make a difference to people’s lives for over 50 years. Find out exactly how our water softeners work and discover the science behind their outstanding performance and reliability.

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