Insta-Snowball

It might not work for a snowball fight, but this instant snowball is very cool… almost freezing.

Our Insta-Snow® powder has become pretty famous for being the most realistic faux snow on the market. What many people don't know is that you can make instant snowballs from the fake snow! Insta-Snowballs might not work for snowball fights, but they're remarkably easy to make, and ridiculously cool!

Experiment Materials

Experiment

  1. Place three scoops of Insta-Snow powder into one of the cups.
  2. Fill a second cup with warm water.
  3. Quickly pour the water from its cup into the cup containing Insta-Snow powder. WHOA!
  4. Pour the freshly made Insta-Snow in a pile on a flat surface.
  5. Put a small amount of water in a plastic cup and slowly pour it into the center of the snow pile.
  6. Scoop Insta-Snow to cover the hole made by the poured water.
  7. Gently slide your hand underneath the pile of snow and lift your Insta-Snowball out!

How Does It Work?

Why does it come out perfectly round? No one really knows for certain. You could speculate that the Insta-Snow powder is trying to absorb the water from all directions resulting in the formation of a perfectly round, but very fragile, snowball. You might consider the fact that Nature uses spheres in everything from raindrops to planets to stars because it is a very good shape for equalizing forces. It is a question that needs more research. Go for it!

Insta-Snow was an accidental discovery and is made by linking together molecules of sodium polyacrylate polymer (polymer: a chain of repeating, identical molecules). Sodium polyacrylate is the same powder in super absorbent diapers. When water is added, the individual molecular clusters hydrate internally and expand independently, forming small, fluffy clusters that do not cling to surrounding clusters. This appears as the powdery “snow.” When more water is added, the water hydrates the outside surface of these clusters, they begin to stick together, and you get slush. Insta-Snow has a higher degree of “cross-linking” (connections) between long chains of molecules than the polymer in baby diapers. This tightly cross-linked network rapidly unfolds when it comes in contact with water and that accounts for its ability to swell up into a fluffy material instead of just holding a “water” blob inside a diaper. When the unfolding polymer begins to swell, it releases energy in the form of heat, an exothermic reaction. The heat dissipates quickly and the snow becomes cool to the touch because the snow is made up almost entirely of water and the water evaporates. The process of evaporation produces a constant cooling effect. That is why there is a little warmth at first followed by a steady, cool feeling. See? It really was warm at the start!