Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Physicists Crack Science of Ice Formation

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Salt - and just about anything else that dissolves in water, which is called a solute - lowers water's melting point, which is why it's useful for de-icing roads.

And the higher the solute concentration, the slower ice forms. That's why solutes, or "cryoprotectants," are added to proteins, cells, tissues and even dead bodies to slow down ice formation during cryopreservation.

Intrigued by this rather poorly understood process, Cornell physicists have discovered that, for a variety of common cryoprotectants, the time for ice to form has a simple exponential variation with concentration. It's the first molecular-level understanding of exactly how solutes slow down ice formation, and it has implications in fields ranging from climate physics to cryopreservation and artificial insemination.

Matthew Warkentin, a physics postdoctoral associate, together with professors of physics Robert Thorne and James Sethna, published these findings online in Physical Review Letters in January.

Ice forms in supercooled pure water in about 1 microsecond (one-millionth of one second). That time gets multiplied by 10 for every incremental increase in solute concentration. In a 50 percent glycerol-water solution, for example, ice formation can take almost a minute.

The simple exponential behavior suggested that there might be a correspondingly simple explanation, Warkentin said.

In order for ice to form, a small cluster of about 50 water molecules must form a crystalline "nucleus"; a smaller cluster will tend to shrink and disappear, but larger clusters will keep growing as long as liquid water is available. The researchers postulated that the solute molecules "get in the way" of water molecules trying to form a nucleus.

By calculating the probability of finding a nucleus-size volume free of the solute molecules that were preventing nucleation, they derived the exponential dependence on solute concentration and were able to quantitatively replicate data for eight different solutes, ranging from salt to sugar to alcohol. The resulting simple theory used statistical mechanics to extend classical nucleation theory.

In looking at the implications of the work for climate change, for example, Thorne said that modern climate models must take into account a measure of the Earth's reflectiveness, which is influenced by cloud cover. This in turn requires understanding of when and why cloud particles crystallize or remain liquid.

Furthermore, cryopreservation is widely used in medicine and biotechnology, where ice formation can be lethal to cells and tissues. Fertility clinics routinely freeze sperm, eggs and fertilized embryos, and nearly all domestic cattle and swine are propagated using cryopreserved semen, Thorne said.

Aside from its simplicity, an exciting feature of the new theory is that it is generalizable to other liquids and to any system undergoing nucleation, the researchers added.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tumor-suppressing Gene Lends Insight to Cancer Treatment
Researchers have found that delicate replication process derails if a gene named PTEN has mutated or is absent.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Synthetic Immune Organ Produces Antibodies
Cornell engineers have created a functional, synthetic immune organ that produces antibodies and can be controlled in the lab, completely separate from a living organism.
Friday, June 12, 2015
On Planes, Savory Tomato Becomes Favored Flavor
Study shows the effect that airplane noise has on passengers' taste preferences.
Friday, May 15, 2015
$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
'Shield' Gives Tricky Proteins a New Identity
Solubilization of Integral Membrane Proteins with high Levels of Expression.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
DNA Safeguard May Be Key In Cancer Treatment
Cornell researchers have developed a new technique to understand the actions of key proteins required for cancer cells to proliferate.
Monday, March 09, 2015
A ‘STAR’ is Born: Engineers Devise Genetic 'On' Switch
A new “on” switch to control gene expression has been developed by Cornell scientists.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Bacteria Be Gone!
New technology keeps bacteria from sticking to surfaces.
Monday, January 19, 2015
On the Environmental Trail of Food Pathogens
Learning where Listeria dwells can aid the search for other food pathogens.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Chemists Show That ALS is a Protein Aggregation Disease
Using a technique that illuminates subtle changes in individual proteins, chemistry researchers at Cornell have uncovered new insight into the underlying causes of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Genetics Used to Improve Plants for Bioenergy
An upcoming genetics investigation into the symbiotic association between soil fungi and feedstock plants for bioenergy production could lead to more efficient uptake of nutrients, which would help limit the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Computer Model Reveals Cancer's Energy Source
Findings focused on the energy-making process in cancer cells known as the Warburg Effect.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A New Player in Lipid Metabolism Discovered
Specially engineered mice gained no weight, and normal counterparts became obese on the same high-fat, obesity-inducing Western diet.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Ingested Nanoparticles May Damage Liver
Although nanoparticles in food, sunscreen and other everyday products have many benefits, researchers from Cornell are finding that at certain doses, the particles might cause human organ damage.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Foodborne Pathogen Detection Speeds Up Dramatically
Next-generation sequencing techniques allow rapidly identification of strains of salmonella, quickening responses to potential outbreaks.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Scientific News
The Changing Tides of the In Vitro Diagnostics Market
With the increasing focus in personalized medicine, diagnostics plays a crucial role in patient monitoring.
LaVision BioTec Reports on the Neuro Research on the Human Brain After Trauma
Company reports on the work of Dr Ali Ertürk from the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research at LMU Munich.
NIH Study Shows No Benefit of Omega-3 Supplements for Cognitive Decline
Research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Less May Be More in Slowing Cholera Epidemics
Mathematical model shows more cases may be prevented and more lives saved when using one dose of cholera vaccine instead of recommended two doses.
Investigating the Vape
Expert independent review concludes that e-cigarettes have potential to help smokers quit.
NIH Launches Human RSV Study
Study aims to understand infection in healthy adults to aid development of RSV medicines, vaccines.
Researchers Discover Synthesis of a New Nanomaterial
Interdisciplinary team creates biocomposite for first time using physiological conditions.
Poor Survival Rates in Leukemia Linked to Persistent Genetic Mutations
For patients with an often-deadly form of leukemia, new research suggests that lingering cancer-related mutations – detected after initial treatment with chemotherapy – are associated with an increased risk of relapse and poor survival.
Flu Remedies Help Combat E. coli Bacteria
Physiologists from the University of Zurich have now discovered why the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) multiplies heavily and has an inflammatory effect.
Marijuana Genome Unraveled
A study by Canadian researchers is providing a clearer picture of the evolutionary history and genetic organization of cannabis, a step that could have agricultural, medical and legal implications for this valuable crop.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!