I believe we are not unfamiliar with water. It is the source of life. The early life of the earth was born in the ocean. Whether it is simple life or advanced life, the important part of the body is water. For example, 70% of the human tissue is water, which shows the importance of water for the survival of life.
The earth is a planet rich in water resources. The surface water accounts for 71% of the total area of the world, and there may be more water underground. After human beings entered the era of science and technology, scientists began to study and explore water. Maybe many people think that water is too simple. As long as we study physics, we all know that it is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, and its three forms are relatively simple, so there is no value to study. Is this really the case?
In fact, the more common things in the world, the more people think that very simple things are often very mysterious, complex and of high value. For example, we are familiar with time every day, and many people think that time has no research value. But in fact, until now, scientists have no idea what the essence of time is and whether time exists or not.
Of course, water is an inevitable thing in reality, but do we really understand water? In many people’s cognition, there are only three kinds of cognition about the formation of water: solid state, liquid state and gas state. Will water have a fourth form? Maybe many people will say that there are only three forms of water? When we were at school, our physics teacher told us that water has only three forms: solid, liquid and gas. How can there be a fourth form?
The charm of science lies in that it can always find things that are impossible to exist and constantly improve people’s cognition of the world. Water is a common substance. Under normal circumstances, it has only three forms. There is nothing wrong with it. But there are always abnormal situations in everything. If there are extreme abnormal situations, new things will be born. So is water.
As we all know, the transformation of water in different forms is determined by temperature. Under a standard atmospheric pressure, the boiling point of water is 100 ℃. As long as the temperature of water reaches 100 ℃, it will boil into steam. But the boiling point of water is not a fixed value, it only under a standard atmospheric pressure, its boiling point is 100 ℃.
If the atmospheric pressure changes, the boiling point of water will also change. For example, when people living in the plateau boil water, they only need to heat the temperature to 85 ℃, and the water will boil instead of waiting for 100 ℃. The reason is that the atmospheric pressure in the plateau area is lower than a standard atmospheric pressure. So we get a conclusion: the boiling point of water is directly proportional to the atmospheric pressure. With the increase of atmospheric pressure, the boiling point of water will also increase.
Therefore, if we want to find the fourth form of water, we need to go to the extreme areas where the pressure is particularly high. Then where is the atmospheric pressure most powerful on the earth? Maybe a lot of smart people have thought about it – deep sea. Yes, if you want to ask the earth where the atmospheric pressure is the highest, it must be the bottom of the sea, and the deepest place in the ocean is the Mariana Trench, where the depth can reach more than 10000 meters.
The atmospheric pressure at the bottom of more than 10000 meters is more than 1000 times of the standard atmospheric pressure, so the boiling point of water there is very high, reaching more than 400 degrees Celsius. Some people may say that even if the boiling point of Mariana Trench water reaches more than 400 degrees Celsius, isn’t it very cold here? Isn’t the water still liquid? But in fact, it is not. The seawater here presents a fourth kind of formation: supercritical water.
Many people may not have heard of supercritical water, which means when the pressure and temperature reach a certain value, the density of water expanded due to high temperature is exactly the same as that of water vapor compressed due to high pressure. At this time, there is no difference between the liquid and the gas of water, which is completely blended together and becomes a new fluid with high pressure and high temperature.
From the above definition of supercritical water, we can see that to form this kind of water, we need to meet two conditions, one is high temperature, the other is high pressure. So the conditions of high pressure in Mariana Trench are met, where does the high temperature come from? You know, the bottom of the sea is generally cold, but there are exceptions. The bottom of the Mariana Trench, which is more than 10000 meters long, just meets the conditions of high temperature. What’s the matter?
As we all know, the interior of the earth is a high temperature environment, and the deeper the earth goes, the higher the temperature will be. After the research and analysis of scientists, it is found that the depth of the Mariana Trench is actually the weakest part of the crust. Not only that, it’s the closest place to the mantle.
In the internal structure of the earth, the mantle is the place where all the magma is produced, so it causes the environmental temperature of the seawater deep in the Mariana Trench to remain at a high temperature, even more than 400 ℃. Therefore, in such an environment, the sea water here will naturally boil up. Coupled with the high-pressure environment, the boiling water can not directly become a gas state, but a critical state of gas and liquid state, which is the so-called supercritical state.
This kind of supercritical water emerges from the ground, showing a state of non gas and non liquid. It looks like a stream of smoke. These “smoke” not only contains a lot of sea water, but also contains minerals and microorganisms in lava, which are the food for the survival of benthic organisms.
Through the discovery and research of supercritical water, scientists have more knowledge about the origin of life on earth. Scientists have a lot of conjectures about the origin of life on earth. One of them is that it comes from outside the earth. It is the impact of comets that brings the seeds of life. However, more scientists believe that the early life of the earth was born by the earth itself, and the birthplace was the ocean.
The discovery of supercritical water has strengthened scientists’ understanding. It is possible that in the early days of the earth, there was a large amount of supercritical water on the seafloor, and it was this kind of supercritical water that became the hotbed for the birth of life. Scientists also found that supercritical water has two remarkable characteristics. First, it has strong reaction activity (the original version said that it has strong oxidation ability). The material to be treated is put into supercritical water, filled with oxygen and hydrogen peroxide, and the material will be oxidized and hydrolyzed. Some can also spontaneous combustion, in the water flame. Another characteristic is that it can be mixed with oil and other substances, with a wide range of fusion ability. These characteristics enable supercritical water to produce strange functions.
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