What is Unfreezable Water, How unfreezable is it and how much is there ?

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Water that remains unfrozen at temperatures below the equilibrium bulk freezing temperature, in the presence of ice, is sometimes called 'unfreezable' or 'bound'. This paper analyses the phenomenon in terms of quantitative measurements of the hydration interaction among membranes or macromolecules at freezing temperatures. These results are related to analogous measurements in which osmotic stress or mechanical compression are used to equilibrate water of hydration with a bulk phase. The analysis provides formulae to estimate, at a given sub-freezing temperature, the amount of unfrozen water due to equilibrium hydration effects. Even at tens of degrees below freezing, this hydration effect alone can explain an unfrozen water volume that considerably exceeds that of a single 'hydration shell' surrounding the hydrophilic surfaces. The formulae provided give a lower bound to the amount of unfrozen water for two reasons. First, the well known freezing point depression due to small solutes is, to zeroth order, independent of the membrane or macromolecular hydration effect. Further, the unfrozen solution found between membranes or macromolecules at freezing temperatures has high viscosity and small dimensions. This means that dehydration of such systems, especially at freezing temperatures, takes so long that equilibrium is rarely achieved over normal experimental time scales. So, in many cases, the amount of unfrozen water exceeds that expected at equilibrium, which in turn usually exceeds that calculated for a single 'hydration shell'.
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Wolfe, Joseph
Bryant, Gary
Koster, Karen
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Journal Article
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UNSW Faculty