Caltech Scientist Grows Designer Snowflakes in a Lab

Monday, 28 December 2015 - 12:24PM
Monday, 28 December 2015 - 12:24PM
Caltech Scientist Grows Designer Snowflakes in a Lab
They say that no two snowflakes are alike, but why are they so unique? Caltech physicist Ken Libbrecht has spent much of his career trying to answer this question, and has managed to create custom-designed synthetic snowflakes in the process.

Designer Snowflakes

The snowflakes are essentially identical to natural snowflakes that fall from the sky, except that they are created in controlled lab conditions. In order to grow these snowflakes, Libbrecht uses a vapor diffusion chamber, or an insulated box that is kept cold on the bottom and hot on top. This causes cold, supersaturated air to aggregate at the center, which forms ice crystals when water vapor is diffused through the chamber.

Designer Snowflakes
Designer Snowflakes

The custom designs are implemented by placing a wire in the chamber. Ice crystals grow on the surface of the wire, and then an electric current is applied to the wire, causing ice needles to grow from the wire with star-shaped structures at the ends. According to Libbrecht, the technology could allow for any design you can think of, provided it adheres to crystal-growing physics.

Designer Snowflakes

Designer Snowflakes

Designer Snowflakes

Designer Snowflakes

Designer Snowflakes

Designer Snowflakes

Designer Snowflakes

Via Futurism.
Science
Technology

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