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Cold-water solutions

One route towards reducing carbon emissions is the development of low-energy alternatives to existing, energy-hungry industrial processes. BAS’s recent work on the physiology of polar fish and invertebrates has shown that many species have developed unique, cold-adapted enzymes.


Dorsal view of young icefish Chaenocephalus aceratus from 500 m depth on the Bellingshausen Sea continental shelf.  These fish do not have any red blood cells and have glycerol (antifreeze) in their plasma.  These species are occasionally seen in the shallows (40 m).   Images taken onboard RRS James Clark Ross cruise JR230 (benthic pelagic coupling cruise).

Some of these enzymes offer solutions which can be engineered into existing industrial processes, reducing energy consumption. Over the past decades, we have played a leading role in developing these, so-called “biomimicry”, solutions. This research began by understanding the physiological adaptations to life in conditions of extreme cold, and more recently we have begun to characterise their underlying molecular biology. Future work will investigate the genes, proteins and metabolites involved, and identify and isolate cold-adapted proteins for potential commercial exploitation.