Posted by: Michelle Mitton | April 30, 2008

Growing Crystals Recipes

Growing Crystals RecipesLast spring I posted about how I kept a notebook of children’s activities for my kids to do during the summer then each Wednesday I wrote about one of the activities. Based on the popularity of the posts I must not be the only mom out there who panics when she finds herself staring summer right in the eyes so I’m doing it again this year.

The first activity? Growing crystals. Now this isn’t rocket science–I’d guess you’d call it rock science–and it’s easy and safe for children with minimum supervision.

You’ll need:

Two glass jars
A pencil
Nylon thread
Water
Alum*

* Now alum sounds odd but it’s actually a chemical used in pickling and can be found in most grocery stores in the spice section. Schilling carries little jars of it for a couple dollars. It’s completely safe (though I wouldn’t recommend eating it–you’ll get a super pucker for sure).

1. Boil about a cup of water then stir in as much of the alum as you can get the water to hold. The water will be cloudy and the extra alum that can’t dissolve will settle to the bottom.

2. Allow it to cool down for a day or so. As it cools overnight crystals will begin to form in the bottom. These are the seed crystals.

Growing Crystals Recipes3. Pour off the solution (not the crystals and dust in the bottom) into a clean glass jar then pick out a couple of the biggest seed crystals to sit in the bottom of the new jar.

4. Wait. And wait. As the solution evaporates it will clear and the seed crystals will grow. Alum tends to form single crystals rather than clusters but if new little crystals begin to form on the bigger seed crystals then gently pick the tiny ones off.

5. Every day the seed crystals will grow. When they’re big enough to tie a nylon thread around you should suspend them from a pencil placed across the mouth of the jar so that the crystals aren’t touching any of the glass sides. They will grow fatter this way though not necessarily bigger. I noticed that the crystal lying on the bottom of the jar was about the same size as the one suspended but it wasn’t as sharp and pretty and it was much flatter.

6. Continue to wait and watch, the crystal you see in the top picture had been growing about a week. The evaporation process is slow but it’s not hard. I’ve wondered how big I can get our little crystal to grow . . .

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