Virtual Water

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Within the Virtual Water microworld, “the visualization of atomic and molecular orbitals (respectively for hydrogen and water) and the simulation of the molecular dynamics of the solid, liquid and gaseous phases and phase transitions is three-dimensional, with the possibility of haptic interaction. The utility of sensory immersive interfaces for enhancing the learning of atomic, molecular and concepts is being evaluated.”

Objectives and architecture

The main goals of this project are:

  • To provide an educational environment for students to explore some microscopic and abstract concepts, which are taught in classes but are far away from daily experience.
  • To develop a practical knowledge concerning the application of virtual reality techniques in education.
  • To contribute with data on the pedagogical usefulness of virtual reality. People in the field have the intuition that virtual reality can have a strong impact on learning. But believing in virtual reality is not sufficient: its usefulness has to be proved as far as possible.

(Trindade and Fiolhais, 2001a)

The two main virtual environments of Virtual Water are according to (Trindade and Fiolhais, 2001a):

  • A Quantum mechanics environment - the geometry of the water molecule, its electron density, and molecular orbitals. In this virtual environment students can build and travel through molecular orbitals and molecular density and should gain a better idea of the molecular structure and clarify the concept of chemical bonding.
  • Molecular dynamics environment – aims at better student’s understanding some water properties by direct simulation of molecules.


  • J. Trindade, C. Fiolhais, V. Gil and J. C. Teixeira, Virtual environment of water molecules for learning and teaching science, Computer Graphics Topic, 5 (11), pp. 12-15, 1999. Reprint
  • J. Trindade, C. Fiolhais and V. Gil, Virtual Water - an application of virtual environments as an education tool for physics and chemistry. In Advanced Research in Computers and Communication in Education, Proceedings of ICCE’99 – 7th International Conference on Computers in Education, Chiba, Japan, ed. G. Cumming, T. Okamoto, and L. Gomez, vol. 2, pp. 655-658, (IOS Press, Amsterdam) 1999.
  • J. Trindade and C. Fiolhais (2000). Using virtual environments for studying water phases and phase transitions. In S. Young, J. Greer, H. Maurer e Y. San Chee (Eds.), Proceedings of ICCE/ICCAI 2000 – 8th International Conference on Computers in Education/International Conference on Computer - Assisted Instruction Learning Societies in the New Millennium: Creativity, Caring & Commitments, Taipei, Taiwan, 413-416. HTML Reprint
  • J. Trindade and C. Fiolhais (2001a). Virtual Water- conceptual experiments become “real” with virtual reality. In R. Pints and S. Suriqach (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference Physics Teacher Education Beyond 2000. HTML Reprint
  • J. Trindade, J. Paiva and C. Fiolhais (2001b). Visualizing molecules in on-line simulations and virtual reality, Europhysics News, 32, 14-15. Reprint
  • J. Trindade, C. Fiolhais and L. Almeida (2002). Science learning in virtual environments: a descriptive study, British Journal of Educational Technology, 33 (4) 471-488.
  • J. Trindade, C. Fiolhais, V. Gil and J. C. Teixeira (2003). Improving Physics learning with virtual environments: a descriptive study on the phases of water, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, (submitted ?)--------

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