Surprising No One, Water Is a Great Lubricant

By Lily Newman on at

Water is kind of important, right? Basis for life on Earth, defines biomes and weather, etc. And even on a really small scale, water continues to strut its stuff. And we're talking really small. Researchers have found that water is the optimal lubricant for nanomachines one molecule big, aka a few dozen atoms, aka tiny.

A paper in Nature Chemistry by scientists from the University of Amsterdam looked at nanomachines, like a wheel and a light-powered motor, functioning in different formulae of organic solvents. When the researchers made the solution 3 per cent water instead of 100 per cent acetonitrile, the machines functioned more than twice as fast. And interestingly, when the scientists added other substances, they eroded the efficiency of the machines based on how structurally dissimilar they were to water. For example, a substance Butanol, which lies between water and lubricating oil in terms of structure, actually slowed the machines down.

The researchers don't know why water is such an optimal lubricant on this scale. They suspect that it has something to do with water's hydrogen bonds, small size, and high motility, also known as the main things that always make water a star. The researchers were surprised by their discovery, which really is just offensive to water. What does it have to do to prove itself around here? [PhysOrg]