1 Tahrcountry Musings: Unravelled - The Anti-freeze Mechanism of Arctic Fish

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Unravelled - The Anti-freeze Mechanism of Arctic Fish

I have always wondered why the fish in the arctic region do not freeze. Temperature of minus 1.8 ° C is enough to freeze any fish. The freezing point of fish blood is estimated to be about minus 0.9 ° C.  Research led by Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith (Physical Chemistry II of the RUB) and her team has finally unraveled the mystery.

It is a known fact that there are special frost protection proteins in the blood of arctic fish. How they work was a mystery.

Dr. Martina Havenith and team used a special technique, terahertz spectroscopy, to unravel the underlying mechanism. With the aid of terahertz radiation the researchers were able to show that water molecules, which usually perform a permanent dance in liquid water, and constantly enter new bonds dance a more ordered dance in the presence of proteins. This is the key behind the anti-freeze. This effect is more pronounced at low temperatures than at room temperature.

The mechanism devised by nature using anti-freeze proteins, works far better than any household antifreeze.

Details of the research appear in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

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