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Artificial snow: research between artificial clouds and ice crystals

Photo: APA (Gindl) © Photo: APA (Gindl)

The first project has been underway in Tyrol/Obergurgl since the 2014/15 winter season. A team of Austrian researchers from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and the Vienna University of Technology has defined the objective of generating an artificial cloud in a three and a half meter high, balloon-shaped chamber by injecting drops of water. Due to the low temperatures in the chamber, ideally less than minus five degrees Celsius, the drops cool off without freezing. Crystallization seeds are injected into the resulting fog. They serve as magnets, and form larger crystals, which then fall from the cloud containers as snow.

Thanks to this technology, a new type of fresh snow can be produced with a relatively low thickness very similar to powder snow. At the same time, the method involves significantly reduced energy consumption and a much more efficient use of water as a natural resource. The aim is to be able to use the technology on a wide scale in about three year’s time, according to Michael Bacher, Scientific Director of the project.

In the meantime, a new research project was launched in the fall of 2015, involving scientists at the Vienna University of Technology and the University of Innsbruck in cooperation with technology companies and cable car operators. The researchers are searching for more efficient and environmentally compatible possibilities to produce snow. “The focus is on ice crystallization”, said Thomas Lörting of the Institute for Physical Chemistry. The search involves new, natural crystallization seeds in order to improve the output of snow cannons and the quality of the snow.

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