A couple of weeks ago I wrote about trying to capture and preserve some snowflakes like Leonard did on The Big Bang Theory. So I did some research and determined that it’s a fairly straight forward process involving a glass microscope slide, some cyanoacrylate (CA) glue (aka Krazy Glue), and some snowflakes.
And then I tried actually doing it.
I headed out to a nearby park and set myself up a one of the picnic tables one snowy evening and made four different slides trying a couple of different techniques to see if one was better than the other.
Ironically, one can have too much snow when trying to capture snowflakes. As you can see in one of the photos I took, it didn’t take long before the slides and black plate had a layer of snow on them. An annoying layer of snow because ideally you want just one or two really nice snowflakes on the slide and then put a drop of CA glue on them and then drop a slide cover on it. I couldn’t blow the excess snowflakes off because they would melt from the heat.
Fortunately, I had a small paint brush, so I was able to get ride of most of the excess flakes.
The microscope slides are very thin and the slide covers even thinner. I noticed that after just a few seconds of holding the slides by the corners that the snow flakes at the corners started to melt, so I tried holding them as little as possible. I used tweezers to carefully drop the slide covers on the glue and flakes.
Figuring out how much glue was necessary was quite tricky. I used a single drop of glue on the first slide and found that it didn’t really cover enough when the slide cover was put on it. Still, it actually turned out reasonably well for a first attempt.
Zooming in on the area in the middle, you can actually see the clump of flakes that were preserved:
I’m actually impressed! It looks like snowflakes as opposed to CA glue, eh?
One of the things about cyanoacrylate glue is that it has a strong affinity to water. In fact, that’s how this works. So, if it comes into contact with any moisture, it’s going to bond to it. Even if a bit of it got on the bottom of the slide.
This is the front of another slide:
And this is the back:
If you look closely, you can see the shadow cast by the glue that got on the bottom. Interestingly, the snow that it came into contact with was nicely preserved even though it wasn’t sandwiched under a slide cover.
Zooming in on one of the clumps on the back, you can see the something very interesting. I don’t think it’s an actual snow flake, but rather a water droplet that froze slowly before it came into contact with the glue, because it looks similar to frost you might find on a window. Very cool! (No pun intended.)
I must admit this really isn’t something that I’d given a whole lot of thought to, but snowflakes can break. When there’s a lot of snow falling, they tend to get broken more frequently. When I was looking through one of the other slides, I was pleasantly surprised to find some mostly intact examples of dendritic snowflakes:
All in all, I think this was a successful first attempt. The next time I try this I know some things to look out for (e.g. Krazy Glue is very sticky). I’m also going to try to keep the slides sheltered from the direct snow and use a small paint brush to transfer the flakes onto the slides. I’m also going to try making a couple of slides without using slide covers.
I took all of the pictures using the macro mode of my Canon SD850IS point-and-shoot camera. What I’d really like to do is take some photos using a microscope.
Hmmm… I wonder what I can find on eBay?