How scientists are harnessing the ice-making powers of bacteria

New research could lead to improved refrigeration, cryogenics, and more

Changing the freezing temperature of water may have great implications.
(Image credit: Rob Stothard/Getty Images))

The first major debate over genetically modified organisms, in the late 1980s, was not over tomatoes, salmon, or corn, but instead a type of bacteria that can raise the freezing point of water. Opponents feared that the modified version, able to instead lower the freezing point of water, would spread into the wild and wreak havoc, possibly even altering the global climate system.

Thanks to the public uproar, we'll never know whether the "ice-minus" bacteria would've have wrought catastrophe or simply protected strawberries from frost, as its creators intended. But scientists remained interested in harnessing the ability to manipulate ice. Recently, a group of researchers uncovered what they believe is the secret to its special talent, which they hope will enable them to create nanotechnologies that mimic it — ice-minus, minus the supposed risk.

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