Growing Designer Snowflakes

There is something magical and compelling in the delicate artistry of snowflakes. It’s as if nature decided to show off one of its finest creations in a study of contrasts and contradictions.  After all, how can snowflakes fall at a rate of “a million billion per second” and yet every snowflake be different? Why would each snowflake be invested with such intricacy, complexity, and general symmetry only to dissolve within seconds? How can something so fragile, amass and crush a building?

So not surprising that a professor of physics, Kenneth G. Libbrecht, would find his fascination with snowflakes leading to actually growing designer snowflakes in a laboratory and photographing them…  The results, by the way, are stunning!

About the creation of one of his designer snowflakes (time-lapse video below), Libbrecht says, “This one took 44 minutes to grow, with a final size of 2.5 mm (0.1 inches) from tip to tip.”

There is a wealth of fascinating information and videos at Libbrecht’s website —  Here’s just a few fun fact about growing designer snowflakes:

Snowflakes are actually “snow crystals — slivers of ice that materialized from water vapor in the air…”

The shape of a snow crystal is controlled “by changing the temperature and humidity as they form. The final shape depends on the entire growth history.”

— Plate-like features grow at “around -11C (celsius) with a low humidity”

— Branches grow at around “-15C (celsius) and a higher humidity”

While no two snowflakes are precisely identical, “twin” snowflakes have been created in the lab…



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