Snowflakes have a complex structure, determined by the nanoscale arrangement of water molecules in an ice crystal and by the specific environmental conditions under which the snowflake forms.
It snows when it’s cold and cloudy: the temperature is below freezing and the air is supersaturated with water vapor.
Snowflakes almost always have six sides, because ice crystals most commonly have a hexagonal structure. The macroscale structure that we can see (the snowflake) reflects the nanoscale arrangement of water molecules.
It’s true that no two snowflakes are exactly alike, but snowflakes can be classified into a number of types.
Nano is very, very small.
Nanoscientists learn about and make things that are too small to see.
Snowflakes are an example of self-assembly in nature. Self-assembly is a process by which molecules and cells form themselves into specific, ordered structures under the right conditions.
Researchers in the field of nanotechnology are studying self-assembly in order to create new materials and technologies.
Nanoscale effects occur in many places. Some are natural, everyday occurrences; others are the result of cutting-edge research.
Nanotechnology means working at small size scales, manipulating materials to exhibit new properties.
Developed for the NISE Network with funding from the National Science Foundation under Award Numbers 0532536 and 0940143. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.