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Crystals are made when a substance has atoms or molecules that form in a very organized, repeating, 3D pattern. Usually when we think of crystals we think of some well-known gemstones like diamonds or rubies, but there are some very common crystals too. Sugar, ice, snowflakes, salt…all of these are crystals. You can make your own crystals grow.
You will need:
- Glass Jar
- Pencil or Pen
- Pipe Cleaner
- Measuring Cup
- Hot Tap Water
- Piece of Yarn or Cotton String, about 6 inches long
You can make crystals using Borax – a detergent booster located in the soap section of the grocery store. We made a snowflake shape out of pipecleaners to see if we could make a snowflake crystal. Fill a pitcher with 3 cups hot tap water. (Not so hot that you can’t touch it!) Add 3 tablespoons of Borax for each cup of water (9 tablespoons!). Stir the mixture.
If all of the Borax dissolves, add a little more Borax and stir. Add Borax until the water can’t dissolve it anymore – the mixture is saturated. That means the water is holding as much of the Borax as it can. In fact, this solution is supersaturated, that means the water is holding even more Borax than it normally would because the water has been heated. Now pour this supersaturated solution in the glass jar.
Make a shape out of the pipe cleaners and tie one end of the string to it. Tie the other end of the string to the middle of the pen. Hang the pipe cleaner shape down in the jar with the pen across the top of the jar to keep it from touching the bottom of the jar. Watch what happens in the jar over the next few weeks.
Here is what our crystals looked like after growing on the pipe cleaner snowflake for about 2 weeks. The secret to good crystals is having a supersaturated solution.
Science Project Idea: Grow three different borax crystal snowflakes. You need three glass jars that are exactly alike. Fill one with cold tap water and one with hot tap water. Get an adult to help you fill the last jar with boiling water. Now add Borax to each jar until the Borax will not dissolve anymore. The warmer the water, the more Borax will dissolve in the water. That’s because heating the water helps it become supersaturated. Now add the pipecleaner snowflakes and compare the crystals that grow over the next couple of weeks. Which jar has the most crystals? Which jar has the largest crystals?
This video shows you how to make rock candy – a cool crystal you an eat. To make rock candy you need to make a supersaturated solution. That means you have to heat up the water on the stove, so get a grown-up to help you with this one.
Here are some websites that give you ideas for making crystals. You can grow crystals using salt, sugar, baking soda and many other substances.
- San Diego Natural History Museum: All That Glitters – the Splendor & Science of Gems and Minerals
- Exploratorium: The Science of Rock Candy
- Exploratorium: The Science of Cooking
- Scholatic: Homemade Rock Crystal Candy
- Martha Stewart Crafts: Borax Snowflakes
- Baking Soda Stalactites
Here is a video that shows you some super fast crystal growing:
Here are some books that gave good directions for growing different kinds of crystals:
- Science Rocks! Crystal Creation Pipecleaner crystal snowflakes (pages 16-17)
- Prize Winning Science Fair Projects for Curious Kids – Crystal Creation (pages 81-82)
- Mixtures and Solutions – Solubility Try This! Growing Crystals (page 22-23)
Words to Know:
Crystal – A solid whose atoms or molecules are arranged in a 3-dimensional repeating pattern. Examples: A snowflake, a sugar crystal, a diamond.
Crystallized – The process of crystal growth or crystal formation.
Dissolve – To mix two substances together and have the molecules of one substance spread out between the molecules of the other substance.
Saturated – When a liquid is holding as much of a solid as it can. It has dissolved all of the solid it can hold.
Supersaturated – When a liquid is holding as much of a solid as it can…but then can dissolve a little more because it is heated.
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