Ice flowers for scientists

10. January 2018
There’s winter in #brnoregion, however we still haven’t got any snow. A team of scientists from Brno couldn’t wait and set off to a polar district ... thanks to their special electron microscope which they had created to facilitate research of ice patterns known as ice flowers.
Ice flowers for scientists

Natural ice flowers can most often be found on the surface of sea ice in polar regions. They are fine feathery structures “growing” on the surface of fresh ice at very low temperatures, and they are three times saltier than sea water.

If We Haven’t Got It, We Make It

Research of ice flowers is not all that simple. Ice is translucent therefore it cannot be studied via optical microscopes. Ice patterns appear in temperatures right below 0°C so they cannot be studied via electron microscope either as it requires material frozen to temperatures below 120°C below zero.

Nevertheless, the team of scientists led by Vilém Neděla made an undeterred effort to create a unique electron microscope AQUASEM II which allows them to study material in environment similar to the natural habitat.

Joys of Winter or Serious Research?

Watching ice flowers is not a mere enjoyable pastime of the Winter . The scientists succeeded in dispelling the myth that ice patterns contribute to the ozone holes over Arctica and Antarctica.
Ice flowers were considered extremely fragile, breaking down in small particles which might cause so called bromine explosion events – massive emissions of bromine out of the sea salt into the atmosphere. Proved wrong! Ice flowers are actually not fragile, they are very flexible and adhesive.

Globally Unique

#brnoregion is definitely not a skiing resort (however skates and sledges are highly recommended), yet our scientists are curious about various forms and shapes of snow and ice. Their experiments with the newly developed microscope are globally unique and help improve human comprehension of properties of ice no matter if it comes from #brnoregion or Antarctica.

Curious to read more about this research? We could recommend you this link then.

Source: Secrets of ice flowers in the research of the team of scientists from Brno, the group of Environmental Electron Microscopy of the Institute of Scientific Instruments at the Czech Academy of Sciences (Ústav přístrojové techniky AV ČR) led by Ing. et Ing. Vilém Neděla, Ph.D, in collaboration with docent Dominik Heger (Masaryk University) and Xin Yang (British Antarctic Survey; Cambridge, UK).

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