We have studied the electronic structure of liquid water using x-ray absorption spectroscopy at the oxygen K edge. Since the x-ray absorption process takes less than a femtosecond, it allows probing of the molecular orbital structure of frozen, local geometries of water molecules at a timescale that has not previously been accessible. Our results indicate that the electronic structure of liquid water is significantly different from that of the solid and gaseous forms, resulting in a pronounced pre-edge feature below the main, absorption edge in the spectrum. Theoretical calculations of these spectra suggest that this feature originates from specific configurations of water, for which the H-bond is broken on the H-donating site of the water molecule. This study provides a fingerprint for identifying broken donating H-bonds in the liquid and shows that an unsaturated H-bonding environment exists for a dominating fraction of the water molecules.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics