Water molecules alone does not generate electricity. The presence of other molecules in the compound makes water electro-conductive. This is really hard to believe at first thought, but the theory behind the molecular science of the compound says otherwise. To understand this, we need to get to the atomic level of the two elements that constitutes the compound, that is, hydrogen and oxygen; and understanding their chemical properties is very crucial.
Related media: Pure water does not conduct electricity…
The Basic Chemistry
Water is a molecule with the molecular formula H2O, consisting of two hydrogen (H) atoms attached to a heavier oxygen (O) atom. Each molecule is electrically neutral but polar, with the center of positive and negative charges located in different places.
Each hydrogen atom has a nucleus consisting of a single positively charged proton, surrounded by a ‘cloud’ of a single negatively charged electron; whereas the oxygen atom has a nucleus consisting of eight positively charged protons, and eight uncharged neutrons, surrounded by a ‘cloud’ of eight negatively charged electrons.
On forming the molecule, the ten electrons pair up into five ‘orbitals,’ one pair closely associated with the oxygen atom, two pairs associated with the oxygen atom as ‘outer’ electrons, and two pairs forming each of the two identical O-H covalent bonds.
Oh Molly… ! You’re-Cool!
Before we understand the total chemistry of how water molecules function, let’s take a crash course of molecular bonds. There are basically two types of bonds as you recall from your science classes, polar bonds and non-polar bonds. We wouldn’t get into the details of both but just to clarify that water is a polar bond, which implies that the molecular structure of the elements are precisely arranged in a symmetrical manner. Water molecules are polar covalent bonds.
The molecular structure of both elements, hydrogen and oxygen, is a covalent bond — also called a molecular bond — is a chemical bond that involves the sharing of electron pairs between atoms. These electron pairs are known as shared pairs or bonding pairs, and the stable balance of attractive and repulsive forces between atoms, when they share electrons. What this means chemically is that, the elements in the bond are capable of sharing their electrons with other elements to form different molecular structures.
In other words, if water molecules were to be a community — say Hydroville — they would be very social and readily accessible to socialize with other people from all walks of life. Only if you’re a non-polar bond, then water molecules have no business with you, (non-polar bonds such as fats and oils). The water molecules in this case are ever ready to bond freely with other polar bonds elsewhere, being it whatever state of matter: solid, liquid, and/or gas. This chemical feature of water molecules makes the compound pretty awesome at making friends with other molecules and easily influenced.
What Is In Water?
Now, let’s get to the magic of science. Water molecules are ready to share their electrons with other molecules provided they are polar bonds. The hydrogen molecules of the compound are negatively charged as mentioned earlier, and will interact with the other positively charged molecules and break the bonds of new molecular structure and making a new compound. This is to say, water molecules are good solvents, dissolving solute molecules easily.
This creates a new molecular structure despite the fact that the water molecules are present together with the new elements or molecules. The bond at this stage is still covalent bond, or to put in a much scientific term, polar covalent bond. The presence of other molecules in the compound are now positively charged ions and has the tendency of electro-activity, conducting or generating energy. The negatively charged electrons in the new compound are electrostatic, and as they are covalent, they will bond freely with an on coming flow of electric current.
This kind of bonding that is present is what makes water molecules a good conductor of electricity. The individual elements of hydrogen and oxygen molecules are not capable on their own just for a moment, but the bonding with other molecules is what does the magic.
So now you know, and we’re sure you can share this knowledge with a friend, probably a science teacher or student who has no idea yet about the chemistry behind water’s electro-conductive powers.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Mon, Dec 17, 2018.