The two identical H atoms in the water molecule exist in two forms, with total nuclear spin number 1 (ortho isomer, o-) or zero (para isomer, p-) respectively. The equilibrium o/p ratio at RT is 3:1, but it has been recently shown that mixtures enriched i n one isomeric species can be obtained by selective adsorption onto aluminum oxide or activated coal surfaces. The quantitation of the o/p ratio has been possible by means of submillimeter IR spectroscopy.
The consequences of this breakthrough are not yet fully appreciated. Indeed, due to the central role of water for life on Earth, the availability of water with altered o/p ratio can be of paramount importance and may open new, highly innovative applications in a number of fields, ranging from medicine, biology, chemistry to earth sciences, meteorology etc. This Adventure project aims at exploring the feasibility of some of these exciting applications.
To this end, it will deal with:
1) Optimising the separation methods of o-and p-water isomers;
2) Developing new methods of identification and quantitation of o- and p-water; in particular, NMR approaches will be developed (17O,1H);
3) Understanding (and controlling) the determinants responsible for o- and p-isomers' lifetimes;
4) Characterizing the physico-chemical properties of the two isomers and studying natural and artificial systems displaying non-equilibrium o/p ratios. The different properties of the o- and p- isomers may open new adventures in the study of the spatial distribution in water containing objects, ranging from inorganic objects to biological systems, and the o/p ratio could be used as a sensor to assess functionality changes in material science and in living systems.
5) Designing new and innovative contrast agents for MRI, based on the peculiar properties of o- and p-water:
a) generating "negative" images by using NMR-silent p-water, and
b) producing 13C-hyperpolarized contrast agents by addition of p-water to suitable substrates
Call for proposal
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