Fluidity of water confined to subnanometre films

Uri Raviv, Pierre Laurat, Jacob Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

598 Scopus citations


The fluidity of water in confined geometries is relevant to processes ranging from tribology to protein folding, and its molecular mobility in pores and slits has been extensively studied using a variety of approaches1-6. Studies in which liquid flow is measured directly suggest that the viscosity of aqueous electrolytes confined to films of thickness greater than about 2-3 nm remains close to that in the bulk7-9; this behaviour is similar to that of non-associative organic liquids confined to films thicker than about 7-8 molecular layers8,10,11. Here we observe that the effective viscosity of water remains within a factor of three of its bulk value, even when it is confined to films in the thickness range 3.5 ± 1 to 0.0 ± 0.4 nm. This contrasts markedly with the behaviour of organic solvents, whose viscosity diverges when confined to films thinner than about 5-8 molecular layers10-15. We attribute this to the fundamentally different mechanisms of solidification in the two cases. For non-associative liquids, confinement promotes solidification by suppressing translational freedom of the molecules11,15-18; however, in the case of water, confinement seems primarily to suppress the formation of the highly directional hydrogen-bonded networks associated with freezing1,3.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)51-54
Number of pages4
Issue number6851
StatePublished - 6 Sep 2001
Externally publishedYes


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