As discussed in the ice crystals section, current ice crystallization theories do not fully explain what we see in nature. In nature, the speed of crystal growth is slower than what is observed in an actual cloud. But with recent research, a new hypercrystallization theory which takes electric fields into effect may help explain how ice crystals grow at up to 10 times the speed explained by older cloud models. This altered process is just an extension of crystallization theory.
This theory was tested using a low electric potential to an "ice needle." As the voltage was increased, the speed of the growth also increased. This field polarizes the small liquid water droplets around the "ice needle," and because the small tip creates a large field gradient, it attracts the liquid water drops. If the charge becomes too great, this whole theory breaks down.
Below is a picture courtesy of Kenneth Libbrecht/Caltech, showing one of the snow flakes that experienced accelerated growth due to an electric charge.
Click here to view an ice crystal growing at the end of an ice needle.
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Last updated 07/22/99 01:25 PM