Have you seen a snowflake and have you ever given a thought on how the snowflakes are formed and the reason behind why they look different from other snow? Let us discover the secret behind the chemistry that is involved behind the different shapes of the snow flakes.
Everyday Chemistry - Discover the Chemistry Behind Snowflakes!
We all love snowflakes but have you ever wondered how snowflakes are formed and why they look different from other snow particles? Let us discover the secret behind the chemistry that is involved behind the different shapes of snowflakes.
What are snowflakes made of?
Snowflakes are a form of water ice. They form in clouds that contain water vapour. When the temperature hits zero degree Celsius, water changes from its liquid form to ice. The temperature, air current, humidity and such factors influence and affect the snowflake formation. These factors also influence the shape and size of the snowflake.
Dirt particles mix up in the water and affect the crystal weight. Dirt particles make the snowflake heavier and cause cracks and breaks. This makes the snowflake easier to melt.
What are common snowflake shapes?
Six-sided or hexagon shaped snow crystals are generally formed in high clouds. Needles or flat six-sided crystals are formed in middle height clouds. Wide ranges of six-sided crystals are also formed in low clouds. Colder temperatures create snowflakes that have sharp tips on its sides and can lead to the branching of the snowflake arms. Snowflakes that grow under warm conditions form slowly and are smoother and have less intricate shapes.
Snowflakes are never same on all sides. Uneven temperatures, dirt and other factors can cause the snowflake to be of uneven size. But in rare cases, it can be intricate and symmetrical.
The water molecules inside the snowflake are what determine the size and shape of the snowflake. Water molecules like ice and snow form weak bonds with one another. The ordered arrangements result in a symmetrical shape and during crystallization, the water molecules align in predetermined spaces and arrangement. Water molecules fit themselves in the available space.
Is it true that no two snowflakes are identical?
No two snowflakes are exactly identical as it depends on the number of water molecules, the movement of electrons, the isotope abundance of hydrogen-oxygen and so on. Because of the constantly changing atmosphere, it's not possible to find two identical shaped snowflakes.
If water and ice are clear, then why does snow look white?
Snowflakes have light reflecting surfaces that scatter light in different colours and hence snow appears white. Also, it depends on how our eyes perceive the colour. Even though the light source may be pure white in colour, our brain interprets it differently.
So the next time you see a snowflake make sure you remember how it has got its form and shape and why it may not have an exact replica.