Smart snow globe generates its own snow

As climate change continues to affect weather patterns, the chances of snow for the holidays have decreased significantly in some parts of the world. Sean Hodgins came up with a solution to a lack of snow with a snow globe generating its own. But unfortunately, the device is problematically power-hungry.

If you’ve been avoiding gift shops and tourist traps all your life, snow globes are usually sticky souvenirs that capture a small 3D vignette or character inside a glass orb filled with water and tiny white particles that spin when shaken, creating an artificial flurry effect. They’re a fun way to recall memories from the past or a time when the holidays came with piles of snow—two things that are hard to find these days.

Pinterest is chock full of craft project ideas to make your own snow globe, but Hodgins wanted something a little more authentic, so he sought out a power supply, cooling fan, heat sinks, and a PC CPU cooler for the core of this build.

A small snowman was milled out of aluminum to give the snow a place to grow, while a few two-watt resistors were added to create evaporated water particles, the main ingredient of the white stuff. But Hodgins still had a problem: Heatsinks and fans can help prevent a CPU from overheating, they don’t dissipate enough heat to create frigid temperatures, another key ingredient for snowmaking.

To mimic winter in a globe, Hodgins added a series of stacked thermoelectric coolers. These 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 hot while the other gets cold, and stacking several coolers on top of each other created a temperature difference of 60 degrees Celsius, which was more than enough to condense the water vapor in the sphere and freeze it on the aluminum snowman, covered it with snow.

Seeing the aluminum snowman bloom is a nice effect, but creating the necessary temperature differences with the help of the thermoelectric coolers takes a lot of energy. So as clever as this is, let’s hope no one tries to mass-produce this idea, because the world doesn’t need another energy-hungry, festive tchotchke that demands more and more from our power grids.

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