Articles | Volume 15, issue 8
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 4077–4091, 2015

Special issue: Results from the ice nucleation research unit (INUIT) (ACP/AMT...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 4077–4091, 2015

Research article 21 Apr 2015

Research article | 21 Apr 2015

Ice nucleation by water-soluble macromolecules

B. G. Pummer1, C. Budke2, S. Augustin-Bauditz3, D. Niedermeier4,3, L. Felgitsch5, C. J. Kampf1, R. G. Huber6, K. R. Liedl6, T. Loerting7, T. Moschen8, M. Schauperl6, M. Tollinger8, C. E. Morris9, H. Wex3, H. Grothe5, U. Pöschl1, T. Koop2, and J. Fröhlich-Nowoisky1 B. G. Pummer et al.
  • 1Dept. Multiphase Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Hahn-Meitner-Weg 1, 55128 Mainz, Germany
  • 2Faculty of Chemistry, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstraße 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany
  • 3Experimental Aerosol and Cloud Microphysics Dept., Leibniz Institute of Tropospheric Research, Permoserstraße 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 4Dept. of Physics, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, 49931 Houghton, Michigan, USA
  • 5Inst. for Materials Chemistry, Vienna University of Technology, Getreidemarkt 9, 1060 Vienna, Austria
  • 6Inst. for General, Inorganic and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 80–82, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 7Inst. for Physical Chemistry, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 80–82, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 8Inst. for Organic Chemistry, Center for Molecular Biosciences Innsbruck, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 80-82, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 9UR0407 Pathologie Végétale, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, 84143 Montfavex CEDEX, France

Abstract. Cloud glaciation is critically important for the global radiation budget (albedo) and for initiation of precipitation. But the freezing of pure water droplets requires cooling to temperatures as low as 235 K. Freezing at higher temperatures requires the presence of an ice nucleator, which serves as a template for arranging water molecules in an ice-like manner. It is often assumed that these ice nucleators have to be insoluble particles. We point out that also free macromolecules which are dissolved in water can efficiently induce ice nucleation: the size of such ice nucleating macromolecules (INMs) is in the range of nanometers, corresponding to the size of the critical ice embryo. As the latter is temperature-dependent, we see a correlation between the size of INMs and the ice nucleation temperature as predicted by classical nucleation theory. Different types of INMs have been found in a wide range of biological species and comprise a variety of chemical structures including proteins, saccharides, and lipids. Our investigation of the fungal species Acremonium implicatum, Isaria farinosa, and Mortierella alpina shows that their ice nucleation activity is caused by proteinaceous water-soluble INMs. We combine these new results and literature data on INMs from fungi, bacteria, and pollen with theoretical calculations to develop a chemical interpretation of ice nucleation and water-soluble INMs. This has atmospheric implications since many of these INMs can be released by fragmentation of the carrier cell and subsequently may be distributed independently. Up to now, this process has not been accounted for in atmospheric models.

Final-revised paper