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Promotion of Homogeneous Ice Nucleation by Soluble Molecules

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journal contribution
posted on 07.11.2017, 00:00 by Kenji Mochizuki, Yuqing Qiu, Valeria Molinero
Atmospheric aerosols nucleate ice in clouds, strongly impacting precipitation and climate. The prevailing consensus is that ice nucleation is promoted heterogeneously by the surface of ice nucleating particles in the aerosols. However, recent experiments indicate that water-soluble molecules, such as polysaccharides of pollen and poly­(vinyl alcohol) (PVA), increase the ice freezing temperature. This poses the question of how do flexible soluble molecules promote the formation of water crystals, as they do not expose a well-defined surface to ice. Here we use molecular simulations to demonstrate that PVA promotes ice nucleation through a homogeneous mechanism: PVA increases the nucleation rate by destabilizing water in the solution. This work demonstrates a novel paradigm for understanding ice nucleation by soluble molecules and provides a new handle to design additives that promote crystallization.