Scientists from the Swiss Higher Technical School and Zurich University developed and synthesized a new class of complex lipids (fat molecules), which mixed with water form membranes that prevent the formation of ice crystals even at extremely low temperatures.
The effect is achieved due to the fact that the established substance forms a «soft» biological substance called lipid mesophase. Its molecules are spontaneously grouped and combined, forming membranes that behave the same way as natural fat molecules. These membranes are then evenly distributed and form a network of connected channels, the diameter of which is less than one nanometer.
Water, mixing with a lipid structure, fills free space between membranes, but the channels are so narrow, that they are simply not enough space to form ice crystals.
Using liquid helium, the researchers cooled the mixture to -263 ° C, but even at a temperature close to absolute zero, the crystals were not formed. Instead, the water has become «glassy» and remained plastic. Lipids in such conditions also do not freeze. The key factor in control and changing the structure is the ratio of fat to water and temperature.
The schematic image shows the lipid membranes channels filled with water (light blue).
A good interaction with the liquid provides a duality of lipids, whose molecules consist of two parts: one repels water, and the other opposites. However, this also determines the complexity of their synthesis. Therefore, scientists simulated a new class of lipids on membranes of certain bacteria, which now allocate them naturally, which allows them to survive in very cold conditions.
Swiss says that the invention can serve as a tool for other biological and physical researchers, as well as in other fields where water freezing is required.
Recently, scientists also developed