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Research Vessel Polarstern and Pistenbully at MOSAiC expedition in the Arctic sea 10.2019
Research Vessel Polarstern and Pistenbully at MOSAiC expedition in the Arctic sea 10.2019

Art & Science

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Scince and Art

Art and Science

Sampel of the Icecore Skytrain drilled 2018 Antartica(Hoffmann2021)

Original sample of a piece of Skytrain ice core drilled in West Antarctica in 2018. The enclosed air bubbles and the ice crystals (fine lines) that form with growing depth in the glacier ice are clearly visible. Sample size ca. 18mm x 50mm, age ca. 600 years © Hoffmann 2021

What is Art & Science?


You might think that science and art are so different in nature that they cannot form a connection. Where art is very subjective, shaped by emotions and feelings, science always strives for rationality and objectivity. And yet there are numerous touching points that go beyond the purely aesthetic presentation of scientific results.

Bizarre preserved snow crystals from Antarctica and the Arctic

"Art is not showing the obvious,

but making things visible" (Paul Klee)

Working and researching in polar regions, these special environments still fascinate us. The beauty of nature, its transience and perfection. We try to capture this amazement in art objects and thus pass on our fascination to other people. In our perception, art is thus both a way of communicating science and an expression of our personal enthusiasm for the beauty of the polar regions, glaciers, snow crystals and ice.

Let yourself be enchanted by delicate snowflakes, old ice and a frozen world that remains hidden for most people.

Die Idee dahinter

The idea

Laser Lab University Cambridge and Cold Lab  British Antarctic Survey

© Hoffmann 2021

What motivates us to combine science and art


Nature creates many unique and sometimes very fast-moving things on all scales. From mighty and bizarre-looking icebergs, fascinating crystal structures that grow in ice caves, to fragile snowflakes, which in turn are made up of thousands of individual crystals. Anyone who has ever tried to look at a snow crystal on their sweater or glove in winter knows how ephemeral these little beauties are. A breath of air is enough and they will break or thaw. It seems almost impossible to look at a real snowflake for longer than a few seconnds or even to be able to store it.


This is what happened to us at the beginning of our overwintering at Neumayer Station III in December 2017. Since then, we have been trying to find methods to preserve these unique structures. In principle, this is not a new idea. Starting already in the early 1960s, scientists tried to preserve snowflakes in the polar regions so that they could later be examined and categorized in the laboratory. However, usually with moderate success or only with enormous technical effort. We found a simple way to do it.


Our research areas are the cold and icy regions of the world. Through our work, we get in touch with the noticeable effects of climate change in these areas. We therefore see the delicate and fragile ice formations as a symbol of the transience and fragility of our planet. We would like to build a bridge between the hard facts of climate research and the ephemeral beauty of nature. We consider the artistic presentation as pathway not only to communicate the fascination of our work, but also to bring people closer to the sometimes uncomfortable truths of climate change.


In our projects and sculptures we work with real preserved snowflakes, ice crystals, ice samples and many other materials related to the polar regions and glaciers of this world. If possible, we also include all materials and devices related to our associated science and research. Many of our objects have a scientific background and tell stories that go beyond the pure aesthetics of ice crystals. You can always find details about the background in the description of the respective project.


Snowflake gallery from various expeditions


 Size comparison: snowflake VS match

 Original size of the snowflakes 


Preserved snowflakes from the Polarstern Cruise PS123

Preserved snowflakes from the Antarctic summer

Preserved snowflakes from  the Arctic winter

Preserved snowflakes from the Antarctic winter

Preserved snowflakes from the Austrian Alps

Logo 38.Overwintering 2018 Antarctica Neumayer III
Logo-Summersaison NeumayerIII ANTLAND2021
Logo MOSAiC Expedition 2019/2020
Logo Expedition PS123 RV-Polarstern
Austrian Alps Logo.JPG

The formation of a snowflake

Categorization of ice crystals: Katsuhiro Kikuchia, Atmospheric Research

The formation of a snow crystal always starts with the right atmospheric conditions. Temperature and humidity must be in the right relation and there must be a nucleus. For example mineral dust, soot particles or biological material (aerosols), which serve as catalysts for the phase change (transition of the supercooled water to ice), can serve as ice nuclei. If it is cold enough (below -38 ° C), as in the polar regions, snow crystals can even form without aerosols or particles. 


Depending on which air, temperature and cloud layers the crystals pass through on their way to the ground, they can form a multitude of different shapes. In dry air, prisms and platelets are more likely to develop, from which subsequently the typical snowflake shapes as one imagines can grow. The characteristic hexagonal shape of snow crystals results from the optimised arrangement of the water molecules when they freeze.


There are currently around 108 types of categorised snow crystals. And yet each crystal  is as unique as a fingerprint and shows minimal differences on closer inspection. On their way through the cloud layers the individual snow crystals lock into each other and finally snowflakes are formed. They can reach the size of walnuts. But that only happens at temperatures around 0°C. Individual crystals that reach the earth's surface undamaged are true rarities.

Categorisation of snow crystals after Kikuchi et al. 2013 (Atmospheric Research)

Our method of conservation

We use different self-mixed adhesives with variable viscosity to preserve ice crystals, ice core samples or snow crystals.  The low ambient temperatures play a decisive role in this.  For the summer seasons in the polar regions, we also work with a self-made CRYO-Plate (thermoelectric cooling plate with a surface temperature of approx. -35°C) to prevent the snow crystals from melting during conservation.  


Due to the adhesive mixtures used, there are different drying and maturing processes. For example, when preserving snow crystals, a small amount of cyanoacrylate is used, which due to its chemical composition hardens in connection with humidity. The small amount of cyanoacrylate is needed to make the imprint of the crystals appear white. To image ice crystals and ice samples, we use various mixtures that harden under UV light. This has the advantage that the drying times can be significantly reduced. We use these adhesive mixtures, among other things, to preserve ice samples, since the low viscosity  even the finest structures such as the internal edges of the ice crystals in the glacial ice and the smallest bubbles can be imaged. For more than four years we have been working on testing new systems and adhesive mixtures in order to produce even more detailed and realistic images of our samples.

The Nakaya snowcrystal morphology diagram

Ukichiro Nakaya (1954, Harvard University Press)

Set-up for the preservation of snow crystals

© Hoffmann 2021-23


Events and exhibitions

      NEWS and updates

  • 16.02.2024 TV: Landesschau Rheinland-Pfalz 


  • 02.2024 German Radio: Deutschandfunk Kultur

  • 17.01.2024 German Online-Newspaper:

  • 01.2024 German Radio and Online-Newspaper: SWR Wissen, SWR Kultur, und SWR2 Impuls

  • 01.2024 German Radio: Deutschandfunk

  • 23.11.2023–31.3.2024 Exhibition at the Museum im Westrich: "Ephemeral Brilliance" The Ephemerality and Beauty of Ice and Snow

  •  2023: A break for more time with the baby

  • "maybe."  Magazine for analog photography December, 2022

  • ​"Das Magazin" German Magazine focusing on culture and lifestyle December, 2022

  • ​IPICS Open Science Conference in Crans-Montana, Switzerland  October 2 - October 7, 2022

  • European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2022  Vienna, Austria from 23–27 May 2022 in 2022

  • ​MOSAiC Science Conference/Workshop, Potsdam Germany from April 25–29. 2022

  • ​Schweizer Familie Magazine 03.02.2022

  • Nordsee-Zeitung 03.01.2022

  • ​December-Edition of MARE Magazine No.149   2021

Where are we mentioned:

Preserved Snowflake from Antarctica

Snowflake for the Minister of Education

Book_Eingefroren am Nordpol_Markus-Rex.JPG

Markus Rex

Frozen at the North Pole

Stefanie Arndt_Expedition in eine Schwindene Welt.jpg

Expedition into a disappearing world

August, 2022


Do you have questions about us, our projects or our science?
We are looking forward to your message!


Science and Art

Helene & Thomas Hoffmann


Thank you for your message!


Cryosity - Science and Art / copyright Helene and Thomas Hoffmann 2021-24

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Please note that all images and texts published here are subject to the copyright and property of Helene and Thomas Hoffmann and may not be used without written permission.

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