Chemistry

Basics for Growing Crystals



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According to Google, crystals are "a solid formed by the solidification of a chemical and having a highly regular atomic structure." They do appear naturally in nature, but they can also be man-made. From rock candy to magnificent displays, crystals can be formed at home. Crystal-growing is a simple experiment that children use each year to create an interesting science fair project. The crystals are grown from alum, salt, sugar, borax, Epsom salts and copper sulfate. Each compound creates a different type of crystal to form but the basic steps for growing them are the same.

The first step in growing crystals is the same. Create a solution that is 100% saturated with the compound you have chosen. Make sure that no residue of the compound remains undissolved by adding more warm or hot water to the solution. Because the crystals form as the solution evaporates, a completely saturated liquid encourages the crystals to form more readily.

If you find that you need to add more liquid to the solution in your jar, this solution must almost be fully saturated. Formed crystals will dissolve in a thin solution.

Growing crystals of size begins with a seed crystal. To form seeds, make your solution in a bottle that can be sealed. Pour a small amount of the solution in a shallow dish and let the crystals form overnight. Choose the largest crystals to be your "seeds." Carefully remove the seed crystals and tie them onto a piece of cotton string.

Allow the string to hang in the jar by tying it to a pencil. When you lower the string into the jar, make certain that it does not rest on the sides or the bottom of the jar.

If you want the crystal to grow independently, tie the "seed" crystals to a smooth piece of nylon thread or fishing line. Crystals tend to cling to rough surfaces. With a smooth finish on your line, the crystals will be inclined to attach to the seed instead.

Crystal gardens can be formed with the use of rocks, bricks or other uneven surfaces. Cover the base with a saturated solution and let the water evaporate. Keep the solution covered with a paper towel.  As the water is removed, the crystals will cling to the surfaces and then to one another to form a unique garden.

If you want to grow crystals on a shape, use pipe cleaners as your base. Form them into whatever shape you want. As your pipe cleaner hangs in the saturated solution, the crystals will form along the edges for a creative display.

Place your crystal solution in a place where it is likely to be undisturbed while the crystals grow. The place should be out of the direct sunlight. Avoid the temptation to pick up the container and check for results for a few days.





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