by University of Utah, April 14, 2019 in WUWT
Proteins help organisms form or inhibit ice crystals
Contrary to what you may have been taught, water doesn’t always freeze to ice at 32 degrees F (zero degrees C). Knowing, or controlling, at what temperature water will freeze (starting with a process called nucleation) is critically important to answering questions such as whether or not there will be enough snow on the ski slopes or whether or not it will rain tomorrow.
Nature has come up with ways to control the formation of ice, though, and in a paper published today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society University of Utah professor Valeria Molinero and her colleagues show how key proteins produced in bacteria and insects can either promote or inhibit the formation of ice, based on their length and their ability to team up to form large ice-binding surfaces. The results have wide application, particularly in understanding precipitation in clouds.
“We’re now able to predict the temperature at which the bacterium is going to nucleate ice depending on how many ice-nucleating proteins it has,” Molinero says, “and we’re able to predict the temperature at which the antifreeze proteins, which are very small and typically don’t work at very low temperatures, can nucleate ice.”