Boston University scientists uncover the secret to movement in super-cooled water

July 11, 2000

(Boston, Mass.) - H. Eugene Stanley and colleagues at the Center for Polymer Studies at Boston University and at the Universit· di Roma La Sapienza have created a computer model that is useful in understanding how molecules move through super-cooled water. Papers in the current issue of the journal Nature and in May 15th issue of Physical Review Letters describe the results of their work, which was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

Understanding the mechanisms of super-cooled water, that is between the temperatures of 0† and -38† C, is key to understanding the processes that allow life to continue in sub-zero conditions. These conditions exist, for example, in the cells of plants that continue to metabolize through the winter, albeit at a slower pace - like a hibernating bear. Essential to this metabolism is the fact that water can exist in a viscous state, not just as the liquid we are familiar with, nor frozen (which would block all metabolism), but in the super-cooled state that scientists describe as glassy. Understanding just how these molecules of super-cooled water move, carrying nutrients to the cells of the plants in this low energy environment, has baffled scientists for some time.

"What we found," Emilia La Nave, principal author on one of the papers, "is that how molecules diffuse through super-cooled liquid depends upon the way energy is distributed throughout the liquid - its 'energy landscape'."

"A useful analog," she continues, "is a drunken mountaineer amidst a large and confusing mountain range trying to find his way home. Even though drunk, the mountaineer will be sensible enough to find the mountain passes and stumble through them rather than climb over each peak! The key to understanding the path of the mountaineer lies in the topology of the landscape he traverses - he picks the path of least resistance."

Similarly, by analyzing the "energy landscape" of super-cooled water it is possible to make predictions about how molecules will diffuse through the liquid. This give us a better understanding about how life survives at temperatures below zero.
-end-
Further information and images are available at: http://polymer.bu.edu/~lanave/papers.html

Boston University

Related Molecules Articles from Brightsurf:

Finally, a way to see molecules 'wobble'
Researchers at the University of Rochester and the Fresnel Institute in France have found a way to visualize those molecules in even greater detail, showing their position and orientation in 3D, and even how they wobble and oscillate.

Water molecules are gold for nanocatalysis
Nanocatalysts made of gold nanoparticles dispersed on metal oxides are very promising for the industrial, selective oxidation of compounds, including alcohols, into valuable chemicals.

Water molecules dance in three
An international team of scientists has been able to shed new light on the properties of water at the molecular level.

How molecules self-assemble into superstructures
Most technical functional units are built bit by bit according to a well-designed construction plan.

Breaking down stubborn molecules
Seawater is more than just saltwater. The ocean is a veritable soup of chemicals.

Shaping the rings of molecules
Canadian chemists discover a natural process to control the shape of 'macrocycles,' molecules of large rings of atoms, for use in pharmaceuticals and electronics.

The mysterious movement of water molecules
Water is all around us and essential for life. Nevertheless, research into its behaviour at the atomic level -- above all how it interacts with surfaces -- is thin on the ground.

Spectroscopy: A fine sense for molecules
Scientists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics have developed a unique laser technology for the analysis of the molecular composition of biological samples.

Looking at the good vibes of molecules
Label-free dynamic detection of biomolecules is a major challenge in live-cell microscopy.

Colliding molecules and antiparticles
A study by Marcos Barp and Felipe Arretche from Brazil published in EPJ D shows a model of the interaction between positrons and simple molecules that is in good agreement with experimental results.

Read More: Molecules News and Molecules Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.