lemonade learning Crystal Growing 

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Growing and Comparing Crystals

For this experiment, you will be making several supersaturated solutions from various substances in order to observe and compare their crystal structures.

growing and comparing crystals

  You will need:

    a small pot or saucepan
    water and the various powders, in the proportions given below
    a heat-proof glass container (canning jars work well) for each type of crystal grown
    several craft sticks or pencils
    string (cotton is best)
    several paper clips or washers
    means for labelling your containers (masking tape etc.)
      Baking Soda Crystals: 1 cup water and 1/3 cup baking soda
      Salt Crystals: 1 cup water and 2/3 cup salt
      Epsom Salts Crystals: 1 cup water and 2/3 cups Epsom salts
      Borax Crystals: 1 cup water and 2/3 cups borax

Method: Prepare your string by cutting a length about 2-3 cm longer than the height of your jar. Tie it to the centre of your craft stick or pencil. Tie a paperclip or washer to the other end of the string to help weigh it down. Repeat for all the jars you will be using. Label your jars.

Making the supersaturated solutions: In a small pot, boil the water. Once it has reached boiling point, add about half of the powder and stir it until it has completely dissolved. Continue adding powder and stirring until no more powder will dissolve. Remove from the heat and pour into your jar. Insert the weighted end of the string and hang it from the stick or pencil. Repeat with a different powder, washing the pot or pan throroughly for each new substance.
Within an hour or so, you should start to see crystals forming.

Borax Crystal Stars and Snowflakes

borax crystal ornament     coloured borax crystals

supersaturated borax solutions, a double or triple batch (see above)
a wide-mouthed, deep, heat-proof container (an oversized pyrex measuring cup works well)
a ruler or stick to lay across the mouth of the container
string or thread
chenille stems (aka pipecleaners)
optional: wire cutters, cookie cuttters in interesting shapes, paper coffee filter or cotton cloth

Prepare the solution as detailed above. Form your chenille stems into your desired shapes. You can shape them around cookie cutters or make your own design. Snowflakes, stars and icicles (tapering spirals for wide ones, striaght lengths of stem for narrow ones) are very effective, but be sure to experiment. Remember that the crystals will take up room on your shape, so small details may be covered up by the crystals.
Once you are happy with your shapes, measure and tie a length of string to your shape. Be sure to measure enough string so you have some length to tie it to your ruler or stick and keep your shape submeged in the solution, but not so much that it drags on the bottom of the container. Tie the other end to the ruler or stick, adjusting the length as necessary.
The crystals will take from about 2 hours to 2 days to form, depending on various factors (temperature, saturation of the solution etc.). You may need to top up your solution if it begins to dry out. To do this, simply make more solution as indicated above (1 cup boiling water to 2/3 cup borax).
To keep out dust, lay a coffee filter or cotton cloth over the mouth of the container as you wait for the crystals to form and grow.

Crystals You Can Eat

Candy Making: A multi-stage experiment in making various candy types by heating sugar to various temperatures. This experiment also involves examining the relationship between temperature, crystallization and crystal size.

Frozen Crystal Pops: Make some frozen juice crystals you can eat.

Crystal String Candy: Grow some sugar crystals, then eat them.

Sugar Cube Crystal Castles: Build your own crystal castle.

More Edible Science Experiments including homemeade ice cream, baking ice cream, baking breads, whipping cream and making butter and much more.

Art and Decorating with Crystals

crystal painting

Painting with Crystals: Paint a picture or make a card with this easy to make paint.

Crystal Window Paint: This wipe-off window paint makes frosty crystal patterns on any glass surface.

Ice Lanterns: These lanterns are great for winter decorating. See the right sidebar at the link for instructions on how to make them.

More craft ideas can be found here.

Bathing with Crystals

Scented Bath Salts Stir up your own bath salts, then colour and layer them for show.

Herbal Bath Salts Use natural herbs to add scent to bath salts.

More easy gifts to make can be found here.
More plant activities and experiments can be found here.

If you enjoyed these activities and would like to try some more advanced crystal growing, check out the Chemical Institute of Canada's annual crystal growing competition.