Friday, 2 December 2016

triple point

Earlier this year, researchers at the Max Planck Institute’s Mainz campus discovered how infectious agency of the pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas syringae operates to allow it to establish itself and spread in vegetation in a very novel and unexpected way—by producing their own frost that damages leaves and steams.
Specialised proteins on the cellular membranes of the bacteria align water molecules into the crystalline structure they’d assume at the freezing point and then the bacteria flagellates itself to dissipate the surrounding heat and make its own ice. The physics are different but the clever trick of the bacteria made me think about this other recent sleight of hand that demonstrates that a vanishingly small column of water will freeze solid even at boiling temperatures. Apparently the bacteria even propagates itself by seeding clouds with ice crystals and comes down with the rain. That’s pretty amazing and I wonder if these bacteria might have applications in cryogenics.