I received (some time ago) an answer from Miguel Cizin and the folks at Docoop, makers of Neowater. (If you haven't seen the first parts of this story, they're here and here). In that last post, I had a number of look-under-the-hood physical chemistry questions about the stuff, in an attempt to figure out if there's anything to it or not. Here they are in order, with the provided answers:
1. How much of Neowater's characteristics can be explained under the usual framework of colligative properties? That is, by how much is the boiling point of Neowater elevated, and by how much is its freezing point depressed?
The company provided some differential scanning and isothermal titration calorimetry data in response to this, which I appreciate. I'm no expert in this area, but to my eye the ITC plots look broadly similar, but with a noticeably longer half-life to thermal equilibrium in the Neowater runs. (It's not noted what substance was being injected in these experiments).
2. Similarly, what's its vapor pressure at STP? Does it show a negative deviation from Raoult's Law (as you'd expect from the descriptions in the patent of Neowater's structure), and is this deviation much greater than expected given the low levels of particulate matter contained? The literature on the DoCoop web site, I should note, mentions that Neowater evaporates more slowly than regular water.
DoCoop replies: "Neowater indeed evaporates more slowly than regular water, since the water molecules are less available as they are attracted to the charged nanoparticles, hence it takes more energy to dislodge them. The difference in the vapor pressure is one of the mechanisms of action that we use to alter the dynamics of reactions to benefit our customers. You are right, there is a difference in the vapor pressure indeed. We will not enter here into the metrics or actual values, since it is proprietary for use by customers, so we focused our answer on the claim itself only, rather than the detail, and hope you understand us." This isn't as complete an answer as I'd wish for - in fact, it doesn't add anything at all to what we've already been told, and I have a hard time believing that a deviation from Raoult's Law is proprietary information. But we'll let that go for now.
3. In the same vein, what's the surface tension of Neowater as compared to the water it's produced from? I could imagine it going either way - if large clusters of water are occupied around the nanoparticles, the surface layer of water may not form in as ordered a fashion, leading to lower surface tension. On the other hand, if Neowater is better thought of as a collection of larger polar "balls" of hydrated particles, perhaps the value could end up higher.
Answer: "Exactly as you stated above. This is another mechanism of action in Neowater that we use to the benefit of our customers for the enhancement of their reaction. In Neowater, the dynamic range of surface tension is +15% to -15% around 72 dyn."
Actually, I think that should be dyn/cm, and that value is smack on top of the normal values for water (between 72 and 73). We're left to wonder what could cause it to vary higher and lower, though, and to wonder which of my explanations were correct. The DoCoop website has a picture of the stuff on a hydrophilic surface, showing a higher surface tension. I should note that if you want lower values, a drop of detergent will do the job nicely.
4. What's the conductivity of Neowater as compared to its untreated form? How does it change in the presence of small amounts of electrolytes as compared to regular water?
Answer: "Neowater's conductivity is like that in RO or distilled water. Neowater has no ions. It will change if (they're added). We are in the process of starting a research project with a NJ-based University on this application for batteries."
5. Have the rates of standard nucleophilic displacement reactions and/or cycloadditions been measured in Neowater? The presence or absence of a polar transition state and the resultant effect on reaction rate would make an interesting test of its properties. (Neowater is stated to be a "more hydrophobic" form of the liquid). Which reminds me: have Neowater's dipole moment and dielectric constant been determined?
Answer: " Neowater is an irregular media from the point of view of nucleophillic and cycloadditions. We did not find the right method to characterize this irregularity. We are open to suggestions because one of our business opportunities is in crystallization of proteins, where this issue is central. We do see irregularities of the nucleophilic behavior in Neowater with our university partners that are developing this application at the Weizman Institute in Israel. Regarding the dielectric constant measurement, there is a change in it in Neowater vs. regular water. We could not conclude yet the correlation b/w the shift in the structure of the "spinnor network" within Neowater if this is what you are trying to understand."
I would think that if you have a system that shows that Neowater is an "irregular" medium, then you'd have a method to begin characterizing it right there. But I'll wait to see if something comes out of the Weizmann work. For cycloadditions, I'd suggest looking at some of the aqueous Diels-Alder work from the 1980s.
And as for my question #6, about whether deuterated Neowater had been prepared, the company indicates that it hasn't done anything in that direction yet, although they are looking into the idea of using Neowater as an MRI contrast agent.
So, where does this leave us? While I appreciate the company taking time to answer my queries, I can't say that I'm all that much more informed compared to what I'd been able to find out from their press releases. That's clearly the way that they'd like to keep it, which is naturally their right from a business standpoint.
But from the scientific end, I have trouble buying into this "It's all proprietary for the use of our customers and the enhancement of shareholder value" explanation. Because if Neowater were really the sort of breakthrough that DoCoop's material makes it sound like, it would be worth a slew of research papers which would give it more scientific credibility. And since the company has already worked to secure its patent rights, such papers would certainly be feasible - desirable, even, considering the publicity that would follow.
And besides, if you want to know about the effects of nanoparticles in water, you can turn to the people who actually do publish their results. Perhaps any rate enhancement in PCR runs with Neowater is due to enhanced thermal conductivity - after all, temperature cycling is an essential part of the technique. How did I come to this conclusion? By reading this paper on the effects of aqueous nanoparticles on PCR reactions. It's a perfectly reasonable paper, and contains, as far as I can see, more data than DoCoop has ever released.
While we're on that subject, here's a site that will tell you so much about the effect of nanoparticles on thermal conductivity that you'll wish you'd never asked. Similarly, if you'd like to know more about the effect that nanoparticles have on water's surface tension, you could go here. If you wanted to learn more about the properties of water confined to nanoscale environments, you'd get a lot more out of this guy or this one than you would out of DoCoop's literature and patent filings, not that that would be very difficult.
So, all in all, I continue to be not very impressed. If Neowater were the kind of wild breakthrough that the company claims it to be, it would be worth more than its current use as a sort of STP-oil-treatment for PCR reactions. The company can, of course, have the last laugh on me over the next few years, and I wish them luck in doing so. But I'm betting that any breakthroughs in the aqueous nanoparticle area will find their way into the scientific literature in a more convincing fashion.