Chemists at New York University have discovered a family of anti-freeze molecules that prevent ice formation when water temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Their findings, which are reported in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may lead to new methods for improving food storage and industrial products.
"The growth and presence of ice can be damaging to everything from our vehicles to food to human tissue, so learning how to control this process would be remarkably beneficial," says co-author Kent Kirshenbaum, an associate professor in NYU's Department of Chemistry. "Our findings reveal how molecules ward off the freezing process and give new insights into how we might apply these principles elsewhere."
A common misperception is that water necessarily freezes when temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius. Not so, scientists point out.
"Nature has its own anti-freeze molecules," explains co-author Michael Ward, chair of NYU's Department of Chemistry. "We simply don't have the details on how they work."
To explore this topic, the researchers created artificial, simplified versions of protein molecules that, in nature, inhibit or delay freezing. These molecules were placed in microscopic droplets of water, and ice formation was monitored by video microscopy and X-ray analysis. The experiments allowed the researchers to determine which critical chemical features were required to stymie ice crystallization.
The experimental results showed that there are two ways the molecules adopt anti-freeze behavior. One, they work to reduce the temperature at which ice begins to form, and, two, once ice does begin to form, they interact in ways that slow down its accumulation.
The researchers then investigated the molecules' structural features that might explain these capabilities. Their observations showed molecules act as "ice crystallization regulators." Ice has a crystal structure, and the anti-freeze molecules may associate with these crystal surfaces in ways that inhibit the growth of these crystals, thus delaying or halting the freezing process.
New York University: http://www.nyu.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
These underground tubes at Lava Beds National Monument include sparkling gold ceilings that even NASA wants to study
One in five cancers may be caused when common chemicals – deemed safe on their own – blend lethally inside the human body, study reveals
Cosmologist Sean Carroll tackles a deceptively simple question: Why does time exist at all? The potential answers point to a surprising view of the nature of the universe, and our place in it.
We've known we need dark matter since the 1930s, but still haven't found it. The search can't go on forever
Discovery could eventually transform computers as well.
Polymer scientist Christopher Sakezles landed the biggest deal in the reality show’s history
A cleverly designed pipe that uses water's own energy to fight gravity could be used in miniaturised disease labs
A new sensor based on particles whizzing along optical fibres could monitor temperature and radiation in dangerous environments
NASA's InSight mission may be able to use seismic waves from meteorite strikes to probe the Red Planet's interior
Niels Bohr, with his model of the atom, led physics into the quantum era. In the last of this season’s Perimeter Institute public lectures, his grandson Vilhelm will talk about personality and his influences