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Institute of Advanced Study

Water at the Interfaces Workshop

11-12 January 2010

Institute of Advanced Study

Water is the most important liquid on earth, and the most enigmatic.  It has played a central role in many scientific advances over the past two centuries and a fair share of scandals, including polywater in the 1950s and cold fusion in the 1980s.  For such a simple molecule - two hydrogen atoms attached to a single oxygen atom - liquid water displays remarkably complex structure and dynamics.  A welter of experimental, theoretical and modelling information is leading to a growing consensus on the properties of bulk water, yet the behaviour of water at the interface where two bulk phases meet remains controversial, with diametrically opposed views on long-range ordering, density profiles, viscosity, water dynamics and charge distributions at interfaces.  The behaviour of water at interfaces has emerged as one of the central issues in a range of scientific and technological problems, such as protein folding, ice nucleation, slip, weathering and fuel cells.

In August 2008, 120 physicists, chemists and biologists met at Faraday Discussion 141 in Edinburgh to engage in a lively debate on 'Water - from Interfaces to the Bulk'.  This Durham two-day workshop will gather together a small group of European researchers to focus on three of the themes that emerged in that Faraday Discussion: 'Structure of Water at Metal Surfaces', 'Dynamics of Water at Biological Surfaces' and 'Is the Surface of Water Acidic or Basic?'.  A facilitator will summarise the state of knowledge and introduce the key issues in each topic; the ensuing half day of discussion will explore the origins of contradictory perspectives and seek to identify ways of resolving these positions.  The workshop participants will form the nucleus of a proposal for a European network of water researchers.

The workshop is organised by Professor Alenka Luzar (Virginia Commonwealth University and IAS Fellow), Professor Colin Bain (Durham, Chemistry and IAS Director) and Professor Martin McCoustra (Heriot-Watt University and Chairman of FD141). 

Attendance at the workshop is free of charge.  For further information please contact Professor Colin Bain ( 

Presentations and Workshop Report