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HomeSciencePhysicsA Watery Probe for Ion–Electron Interactions

A Watery Probe for Ion–Electron Interactions

• Physics 16, s36

Researchers have developed a technique for measuring the energy of sure ion–electron interactions in water, with preliminary assessments throwing up surprising outcomes.


When it involves energy, interactions between positively charged ions (cations) and negatively charged


-electrons high the desk. Such interactions abound in organic techniques, the place they’re concerned in processes starting from protein folding to molecular recognition to ion transport, all of which occur in watery environments. Yet scientists have struggled to review cation–


interactions in such aqueous techniques. Now a staff of researchers based mostly in China demonstrates a technique that may probe the affect of water molecules on the energy of cation–


interactions [1]. The staff says that the tactic may very well be tailored to quantify the energy of different elusive interactions.

Previous strategies for monitoring cation–


interactions had been developed for gasoline environments, the place the environment have little affect on the system. All organic techniques include water in some type, however solely semiquantitative strategies beforehand existed for cation–


-interaction measurements in fluid environments.

To get round this downside the staff makes use of an atomic power microscope (AFM) to review the cation–


interplay for a single molecule Previously the researchers confirmed that an AFM may very well be used to find out the energy of the repulsive interplay between a single hydrophobic polymer and water. Now they discover that it additionally works for probing cation–


interactions. Measuring this interplay for lithium, sodium, potassium, and ammonium cations, the staff discover that the cation–


binding-energy “scoreboard” follows a unique order in water than it does in air.

The staff attributes this surprising ordering to variations within the cations’ hydration properties. The researchers say the outcomes may inform the event of supplies with stronger binding properties and of medicine with improved efficacies.

–Katherine Wright

Katherine Wright is the Deputy Editor of Physics Magazine.


  1. W. Di et al., “Single-molecule force spectroscopy reveals cation-

    interactions in aqueous media are highly affected by cation dehydration,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 130, 118101 (2023).

Subject Areas

Chemical PhysicsBiological Physics

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