Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Physics


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.

Publisher's Statement

© Author(s) 2015. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Publisher's PDF

Included in

Physics Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.