Hydrogen bonding and the cryoprotective properties of glycerol/water mixtures

J Phys Chem B. 2006 Jul 13;110(27):13670-7. doi: 10.1021/jp0618680.


Molecular dynamics simulations and infrared spectroscopy were used to determine the hydrogen bond patterns of glycerol and its mixtures with water. The ability of glycerol/water mixtures to inhibit ice crystallization is linked to the concentration of glycerol and the hydrogen bonding patterns formed by these solutions. At low glycerol concentrations, sufficient amounts of bulk-like water exist, and at low temperature, these solutions demonstrate crystallization. As the glycerol concentration is increased, the bulk-like water pool is eventually depleted. Water in the first hydration shell becomes concentrated around the polar groups of glycerol, and the alkyl groups of glycerol self-associate. Glycerol-glycerol hydrogen bonds become the dominant interaction in the first hydration shell, and the percolation nature of the water network is disturbed. At glycerol concentrations beyond this point, glycerol/water mixtures remain glassy at low temperatures and the glycerol-water hydrogen bond favors a more linear arrangement. High glycerol concentration mixtures mimic the strong hydrogen bonding pattern seen in ice, yet crystallization does not occur. Hydrogen bond patterns are discussed in terms of hydrogen bond angle distributions and average hydrogen bond number. Shift in infrared frequency of related stretch and bend modes is also reviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cryoprotective Agents / chemistry*
  • Crystallization
  • Glycerol / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen Bonding*
  • Spectrophotometry, Infrared
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Cryoprotective Agents
  • Water
  • Glycerol