Engineer Thomas Hoffmann and physicist Helen Hoffmann capture and preserve snowflakes. Its collection includes Arctic and Antarctic flakes.
Thomas Hofmann has an unusual hobby: he works on preserving snowflakes in the workshop of the Neumayr Station in Antarctica. His mission was successful.
Catching snowflakes as a hobby
The engineer spent the winter in the ice at the research station with his wife, scientist Helen Hoffman. She knows the material of ice and snow well from her research. But catching and keeping a single piece of ice was something new.
Glue experiments for preservation
There was enough time and equipment needed in the form of special glue, a cold -40 degree work surface, and plexiglass. So, Thomas Hofmann had no problem starting with simple experiments in the station's workshop, but then…
Glue plays an important role
The immortal snowflake is about the size of a match head and can look very different – no two snowflakes are identical. The basic preservation technique has been known since the 1960s: a special glue hardens around the frozen snowflake, which evaporates very slowly – leaving behind a clear imprint.
The project is now called Cryosity, which translates into German as a combination of the terms ice and curiosity. For example, part of the project is 200,000-year-old Antarctic ice – preserved and displayed in the form of a light installation that makes the microstructure of the ice core visible.
The bridge between science and art in Antarctica
Helen and Thomas Hoffmann describe the project as a bridge between the hard realities of climate research and the fleeting beauty of nature.
Instructions for keeping snowflakes at home
If you want to preserve the snowflake for yourself next time it snows, it's best to use a brush. This makes it easy to transfer the captured chip onto a piece of glass. This is followed by a drop of supercold glue and another piece of glass on top. After two days in the refrigerator, the snowflake should keep forever.
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