How to grow a snowflake inside a bottle


A white Christmas is certainly the dream, but how often that becomes a reality is largely dependent on where you live. Living somewhere like Minnesota, sure, you have a good chance of snow this Christmas. Florida, on the other hand, not so much. But, don’t worry – there is a way that you can still capture some of the magic of having a white Christmas, even with tropical temperatures outside.

We’re talking, of course, about growing a snowflake in a bottle. Now, yes, we know that snowflakes aren’t like plants – you can’t just grow them! We hear you. But, it is entirely possible to create a snowflake in a 2-liter soda bottle, and we’re going to tell you how. It’s the ideal way of experiencing the snowy side of Xmas, without ever having to leave the house, or put your coat on.

Materials

The first thing you will need to be able to accomplish this is to have the right materials. So, in order to create the snowflake in a bottle, you are going to need a 2-liter soda bottle, naturally. But, you need a few other things as well before you can get started. Specifically, you’re going to want a bucket, sponge, fishing line, paperclip, and pins. And you will also need to get some dry ice as well – you might need to spend some time hunting for this as it’s not that easy to find. Might we suggest you check out the local grocery or hardware stores?

Preparation

The first thing you need to do is cut off the bottom of the bottle with a knife, and then cut the sponge to fit the inside of the bottom that you’ve just cut off. You use your pins to attach a bit of string (fishing line) through the bottle, so it dangles from the center of the sponge. Attach a paperclip to it in order to weight it before moving to the next stage. The empty bottle sits upside down in the center of the bucket, and the dry ice is poured round the sides – please use gloves when doing this! Sidebar – try insulating the bucket with a towel or some newspaper to get a better outcome. You then need to wet the sponge, before placing it back on the bottle.

Waiting game

So, the idea now is that you have the dichotomy of having a really cold bottom of the bottle, with the top being warmer. What will happen now is that the water from the sponge evaporates, and travels around the bottle as vapor, which starts to gather on the string in the form of crystals! You will need to wait a while before a full snowflake is formed – around an hour. It’s a little more like frost than an actual genuine snowflake, but it’s more or less a similar thing!

This is a pretty rad way of making your own snowflake, and you can impress others with your knowledge an execution of science. As long as you have access to dry ice, this is a cool and fun experiment that will be pretty easy for you to do. There is a video here by Caltech physicist Ken Libbrecht, that will help you figure out exactly what you need to do.