Oscillations and accelerations of ice crystal growth rates in microgravity in presence of antifreeze glycoprotein impurity in supercooled water

Abstract

The free growth of ice crystals in supercooled bulk water containing an impurity of glycoprotein, a bio-macromolecule that functions as 'antifreeze' in living organisms in a subzero environment, was observed under microgravity conditions on the International Space Station. We observed the acceleration and oscillation of the normal growth rates as a result of the interfacial adsorption of these protein molecules, which is a newly discovered impurity effect for crystal growth. As the convection caused by gravity may mitigate or modify this effect, secure observations of this effect were first made possible by continuous measurements of normal growth rates under long-term microgravity condition realized only in the spacecraft. Our findings will lead to a better understanding of a novel kinetic process for growth oscillation in relation to growth promotion due to the adsorption of protein molecules and will shed light on the role that crystal growth kinetics has in the onset of the mysterious antifreeze effect in living organisms, namely, how this protein may prevent fish freezing.

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