Rock Candy Crystals

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Crystals are formed when atoms line up in patterns and solidify. There are crystals everywhere — in the form of salt, sugar, sand, diamonds, quartz, and many more!

To make crystals, you need to make a very special kind of solution called a supersaturated solid solution. Here’s what that means: if you add salt by the spoonful to a cup of water, you’ll reach a point where the salt doesn’t disappear (dissolve) anymore and forms a lump at the bottom of the glass.

The point at which it begins to form a lump is just past the point of saturation. If you heat up the saltwater, the lump disappears. You can now add more and more salt, until it can’t take any more (you’ll see another lump starting to form at the bottom). This is now a supersaturated solid solution. Mix in a bit of water to make the lump disappear. Your solution is ready for making crystals. But how?

If you add something for the crystals to cling to, like a rock or a stick, crystals can grow. If you “seed” the object (coat it with the stuff you formed the solution with, such as salt or sugar), they will start forming faster. If you have too much salt (or other solid) mixed in, your solution will crystallize all at the same time and you’ll get a huge rock that you can’t pull out of the jar. If you have too little salt, then you’ll wait forever for crystals to grow. Finding the right amount takes time and patience.

Rock Candy Crystals
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Crystals are formed when atoms line up in patterns and solidify. There are crystals everywhere — in the form of salt, sugar, sand, diamonds, quartz, and many more!

To make crystals, you need to make a very special kind of solution called a supersaturated solid solution. Here’s what that means: if you add salt by the spoonful to a cup of water, you’ll reach a point where the salt doesn’t disappear (dissolve) anymore and forms a lump at the bottom of the glass.

The point at which it begins to form a lump is just past the point of...
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