Watch Ice Crystals Bloom Into Mesmerising Chaos

By Jamie Condliffe on at

You're about to watch a beautiful music video, which sets a precise yet delicate piano line to one of the most wonderful pieces of scientific footage you'll have seen in a long time.

Directed and produced by Craig Ward, the video accompanies the haunting track by Ryan Teague, called Cascades—a piece in which "the movements of a music box ballerina are reinterpreted."

But what really grabbed our attention is the graceful crystal growth which features in the video. To record such wonderful footage a 2,000 volts electric field was produced in a chamber filled with supercooled water vapor. Then, thanks to the electric field which kept the water molecules aligned in order to grow into even crystal patterns, the magic happened.

The wonderful, snaking trees of ice were grown from the tip of an electrically-charged needle. As each strand of crystal grew, it occasionally developed a tiny fault, which led to the branching you see happening in the video. So it went, those strands occasionally branching off again and again, in a chaotic, mesmerising process.

In fact, the process so closely resembles the way a tree grows it branches that it is referred to as dendritic crystal growth. Because there's a practically infinite number of ways that these kinds of crystals can grown, no two are ever the same. What's perhaps even more amazing is that each of these trees is just fractions a millimeter long. The cylinder of ice you see was also incredibly tough to produce. Director Ward explains:

"The rotating structure you see throughout the film is in fact a superfine glass capillary attached to a motor [around which ice crystals formed]. While the tree structures grew relatively quickly, the spindle shots would take in the region of six or seven hours each."

That meant filming the process was itself a technological challenge, requiring four days continuous filming using a Canon 5D to yield just 7 minutes of useable footage, which was whittled down into the music video. Phew. [Ryan Teague viaThe Daily Beast]