While it may be the reason behind tires skidding, pipes bursting, and closed roads making traffic a nightmare, ice doesn’t always form as easily as it seems. It often gets an assist from proteins made by fungi.
Never mind the common thinking that ice forms at 0° C (32° F). Though this is water’s freezing point, pure water will only freeze when temperatures plummet as low as minus 46° C (minus 50.8° F). So why does it usually freeze at zero anyway? Organisms such as bacteria, insects, and fungi produce proteins known as ice nucleators (non-protein nucleators can also be of abiotic origin). These proteins can kick-start the formation, or nucleation, of ice at higher temperatures than pure water would freeze at.
While the exact reason fungi make these proteins remains unknown, researchers Valeria Molinero of the University of Utah and Konrad Meister of Boise State University led a study that has revealed more about how fungal ice nucleators can both promote and hold back ice formation more efficiently than those of many other life-forms.
A small fleet of rideshare Fiat 500e electric vehicles will become testbeds for battery-swap technology in 2024. The experiment is being conducted by Ample, a startup working on battery swaps, and Stellantis, Fiat's parent company, the Verge reported today.
This isn't Ample's first test of its battery-swapping technology; in 2021 it started a small trial in the Bay Area to demo its modular battery, which replaces the existing traction battery in an EV and allows Ample's automated swap stations to switch out depleted packs for charged ones. But the fact that this deal was made with an OEM like Stellantis is still significant.
As we detailed last time we looked at Ample's technology, the EVs require some engineering work for this to all be possible. Ample has to design a structural frame to replace the existing battery pack that will instead contain the swappable modules, while still conforming to the engineering requirements of the original pack—down to the same fasteners, bolts, and connectors.