Rainbow Snow

Create a fluffy fake snowstorm in a variety of colors. It's the most colorful blizzard ever

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Snow Colors - SICK Science

We’ll admit, we take a little bit of offense when someone says, “Snow only comes in white.” Apparently, they’ve never seen the Rainbow Snow activity.

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Here's What You'll Need

  • Insta-Snow powder
  • Six 9 oz plastic cups
  • Six 2 oz plastic cups
  • Yard Stick
  • Hot glue gun
  • Food coloring

Let's Try It

  1. Snow Colors - Step 1

    Line up the six large 9oz cups so that they are almost touching. Then align the 6 smaller (2oz) cups evenly with the 6 larger, on the yard stick.

  2. Snow Colors - Step 2

    Use a hot glue gun to glue each of the 2oz plastic cups on a yard stick so that they are equally spaced apart.

  3. Snow Colors - Step 3

    Fill each of the 2oz cups with warm water.

  4. Snow Colors - Step 4

    Use the food coloring to color the water in each cup.  If you would like to make a rainbow pattern, use the following guide:

    • Cup 1 – Red
    • Cup 2 – Orange
    • Cup 3 – Yellow
    • Cup 4 – Green
    • Cup 5 – Blue
    • Cup 6 – Purple
  5. Snow Colors - Step 5

    Use the blue scoop that came in the Instant Snow package to measure out 1 scoop of Insta-Snow powder into each of the large 9oz plastic cups.

  6. Snow Colors - Step 6

    Carefully pick up the yard stick and line up the cups. Tip the stick to pour all of the water at once into the cups with the Instant Snow powder. Don’t take your eyes off the erupting snow!

How Does It Work

Insta-Snow is actually derived from the superabsorbent polymer found in baby diapers. The only difference (and it’s a big one) is that the Insta-Snow polymer not only absorbs water, but the long chains of molecules swell to an enormous size. The polymer soaks up water using the process of osmosis (water molecules pass through a barrier from one side to the other). When water comes in contact with the polymer, it moves from outside of the polymer to the inside and causes it to swell. The polymer chains have an elastic quality, but they can stretch only so far and hold just so much water.

The Insta-Snow reaction is a great example of a physical reaction – a reaction where the substance itself does not change. When an ice cube melts, a physical reaction takes place where the solid ice turns into a liquid, but the substance (water) never changes – it’s still water!

If you think of the Insta-Snow powder as millions of tiny sponges, it’s easy to see that neither the Insta-Snow powder or the water was changed. If you allow the water to evaporate, the Insta-Snow powder dries out and returns to its previous state, ready to be used again.

Take It Further

The Hands-on Version…

  1. Pour a scoop of powder into a friend’s cupped hands.
  2. Fill the small plastic cup with water and pour it directly onto the powder. Get ready for screams of excitement as the snow erupts in your friend’s hands.
  3. Catch the falling snow in a bowl or tray.   If you let the snow sit out, the water will evaporate and the once fluffy snow will turn back into the dry powder. That’s right… it’s reusable!!!

 Conservation of Mass
  1. Start by accurately weighing 1 blue scoop of the snow polymer (1 teaspoon, or about 3 grams).
  2. Perform the experiment described above by adding 2 ounces (60 mL) water to the powder to make snow. Accurately weigh the snow.
  3. Place the snow in an open container and allow the water to evaporate. This may take several days, depending on the humidity. When all of the water has completely evaporated, accurately weigh the remaining powder.

If the law of conservation of mass is correct, you should have recovered the same amount of Insta-Snow powder you started with at the beginning of the experiment. This proves that the reaction that took place was a physical reaction and not a chemical reaction. The composition of the Insta-Snow powder never actually changed.

Science Fair Connection

While adding water to a super water-absorbing polymer and watching the mound of fluffy white snow erupt is fascinating, it is not a science fair project. You can create a science fair project by identifying a variable, or something that you can change, in this experiment. Let’s take a look at some of the variable options that might work:

  • Try testing for the fastest reaction by using different temperatures of water. Which temperature of water will create the fastest reaction? Which one will create the fluffiest snow?
  • Test different “recipes” of snow. You have created mounds of snow with the given amounts of water and Insta-Snow powder that we specified. Try different proportions of water and Insta-Snow powder to see which “recipe” creates the fluffiest snow.

These are just a couple of ideas, but you aren’t limited to them! Come up with different ideas of variables to test and give them a try. Remember, you can only change one variable at a time for each test. For example, if you are testing different water temperatures, make sure that all other factors in the test remain the same!

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