By Jamie Condliffe

Water’s just plain old water, right? Not when you trap it inside a tiny channel, it seems, because then it behaves like no other solid, liquid or gas.

Researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been experimenting to find out what happens to water when it occupies tiny spaces within minerals, to try and understand at the smallest scale what happens to water held in things like rocks and cell walls. In their latest experiments published in Physical Review Letters, they studied what happens to water when it occupies the small hexagonal ultra-small channels in the mineral beryl—the mineral that emeralds are made of.

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