The “coherent water” scam is back

On May 7, I received a press release touting a product called “coherent water” made by a company named Analemma Water India. According to the document, “coherent water” is based on more than “15 years of rigorous research and development” and confers “a myriad … health benefits”.This “rigorous research” is flawed research. There’s definitely such a thing as “coherent water” and it’s indistinguishable from regular water at all scales. The “coherent water” scam has reared its serpentine head before with the names “hexagonal water”, “structured water”, “polywater”, “exclusion zone water”, and water with one additional hydrogen and oxygen atom each, i.e. “H3O2”. Analemma’s “Mother Water”, which is its brand name for “coherent water”, itself is a rebranding of a product called “Somarka” that hit the Indian market in 2021.

The scam here is that the constituent molecules of “coherent water” get together to form hexagonal structures that persist indefinitely. And these structures distinguish “coherent water”, giving it wonderful abilities like possessing a greater energy content than regular water, boosting one’s “life force”, and — this one I love — being able to “encourage” other water molecules around it to form similar hexagonal assemblages.

I hope people won’t fall for this hoax but I know some will. But thanks to the lowest price of what Analemma is offering — a vial of “Mother Water” that it claims is worth $180 (Rs 15,000) — it’ll be some rich buggers and I think that’s okay. Fools, their wealth, and all that. Then again, it’s somewhat saddening that while (some) people are fighting to keep junk foods and bad medicines out of the market, we have “coherent water” companies and their PR outfits bravely broadcasting their press releases to news publications (and at least one publishing it) at around the same time.

If you’re curious about the issue with “coherent water”: At room temperature and pressure, the hydrogen atoms of water keep forming and breaking weak bonds with other hydrogen atoms. These bonds last for a very small duration and give water its high boiling point and ice crystals their characteristic hexagonal structure.

Sometimes water molecules organise themselves using these bonds into a hexagonal structure as well. But these formations are very short-lived because the hydrogen bonds last only around 200 quadrillionths of a second at a time, if not lower. According to the hoax, however, in “coherent water”, the hydrogen bonds continue to hold such that its water molecules persist in long-lived hexagonal clusters. But this conclusion is not supported by research — nor is the  claim that, “When swirled in normal water, the [magic water] encourages chaotic and irregular H2O molecules to rearrange into the same liquid crystalline structure as the [magic water]. What’s more, the coherent structure is retained over time – this stability is unique to Analemma.”

I don’t think this ability is unique to the “Mother Water”. In 1963, a scientist named Felix Hoenikker invented a variant of ice that, when it came in contact with water cooler than 45.8º C, quickly converted it to ice-nine as well. Sadly Hoenikker had to abandon the project after he realised the continued use of ice-nine would simply destroy all life on Earth.

Anyway, water that’s neither acidic nor basic also has a few rare hydronium (H3O+) and hydroxide (OH-) ions floating around as well. The additional hydrogen ion — basically a proton — from the hydronium ion is engaged in a game of musical chairs with the protons in the same volume of water, each one jumping to a molecule, dislodging a proton there, which jumps to another molecule, and so on. This is happening so rapidly that the hydrogen atoms in every water molecule are practically being changed several thousand times every minute.

In this milieu, it’s impossible for a fixed group of water molecules to be hanging around. In addition, the ultra-short lifetime of the hydrogen bonds are what makes water a liquid: a thing that flows, fills containers, squeezes between gaps, collects into droplets, etc. Take this ability and the fast-switching hydrogen bonds away, as “coherent water” claims to do by imposing a fixed structure, and it’s no longer water — any kind of water.

Analemma has links to some reports on its website; if you’re up to it, I suggest going through them with a simple checklist of the signs of bad research side by side. You should be able to spot most of the gunk.