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Grow your own Crystals

 

Gather the Materials

*Thin cardboard (like the back of a notepad) 
*Pen or pencil 
*Scissors 
*Ammonia 
*Table salt (plain or iodized – either works) 
*Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing (available in the laundry aisle at your local grocery store ) 
*Food coloring 
*Measuring spoon (1 tablespoon) 
*Small dish or bowl
*Water

 

 

Trace the Shapes

Use a pen or a pencil to draw shapes on the cardboard. Each shape should be about 4 inches tall and 2 inches wide. Also, be sure to draw a notch half way down from the top on one shape and half way up on the other.
Since cardboard contains cellulose from trees (like all paper products), it draws up the growing solution in very much the same way. The cardboard sucks up the solution until it is completely soaked!

Cut the Shapes

Use scissors to cut out both shapes, carefully cutting out each notch.

 

Build

Slide notches together and position  shapes so they are perpendicular to one another.

Add Food Coloring

Put a drop of food coloring on your cardboard.
As the solution reaches some of the color from the food coloring also is dissolved into the solution.

Prepare the Solution

Prepare the growing solution in a small bowl. Mix together 2 tablespoons each of water, table salt, liquid bluing, and ammonia. Stir thoroughly, until most of the salt has dissolved. You want to saturate the growing solution.

Place in the Solution

One the solution is prepared, put your cardboard in the bowl and watch as the growing solution begins to move up into the cardboard. Place your petri dish where it wonít be disturbed while it grows. Salt crystals are very fragile. 

After the solution has been drawn up into the cardboard, it begins to evaporate. This process is sped up by the presence of the ammonia (which evaporates more quickly than water). When the water and ammonia evaporate, they turn from a liquid into a gas and the they leave behind the salt as small, white crystals (some of which are dyed by the food coloring).

 

Watch it Grow!

You'll start to see crystal growth in about 6 to 8 hours with your shapes looking like this after about a full day of growth. Notice how the crystals have picked up the color from the food coloring. 

TIP: Don't worry if the growing solution turns a brownish, orange color from its original dark blue. This is a natural oxidation of the iron in the liquid bluing (like rust) and your salt crystals will still grow.


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