Liquids and solids at the same time?

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Disordered systems are found throughout nature, and there is no theory to describe them. How do the molecules of a liquid move as they cool? The UPC is studying the structure of liquids.

Luis Carlos Pardo. Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering. Materials Characterisation Group.

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For Luis Carlos Pardo, a good researcher needs to have ‘passion, passion and more passion’. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, a scientist should be like a child playing on the seashore, who is excited to find a pebble or a shell with an unusual shape. Obviously, hard work and perseverance are also required, but ‘they will come easily enough if you are passionate about what you do’.

At first glance, the molecules in a liquid like water seem to be completely disordered. However, upon closer examination, one finds that the space around each one is filled with other molecules, like pieces in a three-dimensional game of Tetris. Thus, order is found in a system that initially seemed to be disordered. This fact is crucial to understanding how certain biological processes involving water work.

This is the line of research being pursued by this young researcher, who is experimenting with neutrons to study the structure of liquids. Luis Carlos is a firm believer in popularising science and would like to see scientific news in the media given greater attention, since, as he puts it, ‘research is also culture’.