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ISRN Physical Chemistry
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 279463, 67 pages
Review Article

The Radial Distribution Functions of Water as Derived from Radiation Total Scattering Experiments: Is There Anything We Can Say for Sure?

STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, ISIS Facility, Harwell Oxford, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 0QX, UK

Received 11 November 2012; Accepted 28 November 2012

Academic Editors: Y. Murakami, E. B. Starikov, and L. Vattuone

Copyright © 2013 A. K. Soper. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The present paper reviews the investigation of ambient water structure and focusses in particular on the determination of the radial distribution functions of water from total experimental radiation scattering experiments. A novel method for removing the inelastic scattering from neutron data is introduced, and the effect of Compton scattering on X-ray data is discussed. In addition the extent to which quantum effects can be discerned between heavy and light water is analysed against these more recent data. It is concluded that, with the help of modern data analysis and computer simulation tools to interrogate the scattering data, a considerable degree of consistency can be obtained between recent and past scattering experiments on water. That consistency also gives a realistic estimate of the likely uncertainties in the extracted radial distribution functions, as well as offering a benchmark against which future experiments can be judged.