As climate change continues to affect weather patterns, the odds of having snow for the holidays in some parts of the world have considerably decreased. Sean Hodgins came up with a solution to a lack of snow with a snow globe that generates its own. But unfortunately, the contraption is problematically power-hungry.
If you’ve spent your life avoiding gift shops and tourist traps, snow globes are usually tacky souvenirs that trap a small 3D vignette or character inside a glass sphere filled with water and tiny white particles that swirl around when shaken, creating an artificial flurry effect. They’re a quaint way to either remember past travels or a time when the holidays came with piles of snow: two things that are hard to come by these days.
Pinterest is chock full of craft project ideas for making your own snow globe, but Hodgins wanted something more authentic so scavenged a power supply, cooling fan, heatsinks, and a PC’s CPU cooler for the core of this build.
A tiny snowman was milled from aluminum to give the snow someplace to grow, while a pair of two-watt resistors were added to create vaporized water particles: the key ingredient of the white stuff. But Hodgins still had a problem: Heatsinks and fans can help prevent a CPU from over-heating, they don’t remove enough heat to create freezing cold temperatures which are another key ingredient for making snow.
To recreate winter in a globe, Hodgins added a series of stacked thermoelectric coolers which are simple devices that use the Peltier effect to create a temperature difference between two different materials when an electric current is applied. One side gets warm while the other gets cold, and by stacking several of the coolers together, a temperature difference of 60 degrees celsius was created, which was more than enough to cause the water vapor in the globe to condense and freeze on the aluminum snowman, covering it in snow.
Watching the aluminum snowman blossom is a neat effect, but creating the necessary temperature differences using the thermoelectric coolers draws a lot of power. So as clever a build as this is, let’s hope no one tries to put this idea into mass production, as the world doesn’t need another power-hungry festive tchotchke increasing demands on our power grids.