You’ve heard that “diamonds are forever” but did you know that you can make a snowflake last forever?
Just like in The Big Bang Theory when Leonard gave Penny a snowflake from the North Pole:
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Dark piece of paper or cardboard
Glass cover slip
Fine tip paint brush
- Store all the items in a freezer for 30 minutes. Caution with the glue: do not go over 30 minutes because it will freeze and you’ll have to wait for it to unthaw.
- Go outside with some glass microscope slides, cover slips, and superglue (not the gel kind; it should be thin and watery). Cover the slides and coverslips until they become as cold as the surrounding air.
- Let snow crystals fall onto the cardboard or shovel snow onto it lightly, and scan around with a magnifier to find an attractive specimen. Carefully pick the crystal up using a small artist’s paintbrush and place it on one of the slides.
- Place a drop of cold superglue on the crystal, and drop a cover slip on top. Be careful not to melt or otherwise damage the snow crystal in the process.
- Leave the slide outside or in your freezer for a week or two until the glue hardens. You’ll see something like this under a magnifying glass or microscope. Air bubbles are common so don’t panic if you see them like in this photo.
How does this work?
So superglue is actually just methyl cyanoacrylate. So they’re monomers that get activated with water.
When activated by water it looks like this.
This will keep repeating which is called living polymerization as long as free monomers are available. Because the glue we used in this experiment was more viscous or “sticky” it allows for the snowflake to stay preserved.
NGSS Learning Principles: