Crystal Gems Grow: ROUND 2
How to Grow a Round Crystal
Crystals grow in all sorts of shapes. While bulbous crystals occur in nature, crystals grown at home tend to be spiky and irregular in shape. Encourage your crystals to grow in a circle by growing them along or within a round structure. These experiments involve boiling water, so children should not attempt them without adult supervision.
Building a Round Crystal Structure
Gather your supplies.You will need powdered Borax, a packet of fuzzy pipe cleaners, a heat-proof glass container (such as a beaker), neon food coloring, a pencil or skewer, a measuring spoon, scissors, and thread. Your pipe cleaners should either be white or the color of the crystal you wish to grow.
- The pipe cleaners are the bones of your crystal. Your crystal will be translucent, so the pipe cleaners will show through if they are a different color than the crystal.
Build your crystal sphere.Take your pipe cleaners and weave 2-3 into a large, loose sphere. The crystals will grow around the pipe cleaners, so leave plenty of space between the pipe cleaners. Try weaving basic geodesic domes, or just bending and criss-crossing the pipe cleaners until you get a rough sphere. To visualize what your sphere will look like when finished, imagine that each pipe cleaner will "thicken" by growing crystals.
- Make a few, as you can't predict how the crystals will grow, and some might fare better than others.
- Weave the pipe cleaners around one another so that the shape is structurally sound.
- You can make your sphere whatever size you want, but make sure it will fit easily within the glass container.
- For a smaller sphere, pretzel up a single pipe cleaner.
Suspend the sphere.Take your pencil or skewer, and lay it across the top of your glass container. Cut a piece of string and tie it to your pipe cleaner. Tie the other end to the pencil or skewer, so that your sphere dangles near the bottom of the glass but does not touch the bottom or the sides.
Boil and dye water.Boil about 8 cups (1,900 ml) of water, enough to fill half the glass container—if you are using a beaker, you can remove your sphere for now and boil the water in it on the stove. Stir in a few drops of food coloring.
Stir in Borax.While the water is still hot, add about 9 tablespoons (243 g) of Borax and stir till it dissolves. Keep adding 1 tablespoon (27 g) of Borax at a time until you add a tablespoon of Borax that does not entirely dissolve.
- Your crystals will be biggest if you add the maximum amount of borax that your water can dissolve.
Dunk the sphere and suspend it.While the Borax solution is still very hot, add it to the glass container. Dunk your sphere in and out of the solution several times, to shake off air bubbles. Next, suspend the sphere by placing the skewer or pencil atop the glass container.
- Reheat the solution if it has cooled.
Cover the beaker and leave it alone.Put a magazine, a piece of cardboard, or some other light flat object over the beaker, and leave the whole shebang out on the counter overnight. If you are using a beaker, you can leave it on the stove so that it cools slowly.
Celebrate or try again.After at least 8 hours have passed, lift your crystal from the solution. You should have a sphere covered evenly in translucent lumpy crystals. If you like how it turned out, consider spraying it with a clear acrylic coat, as borax crystals can dissolve if handled or dampened. If you don't like it, simply reheat the solution and try again.
- Your pipe cleaner structure should be completely obscured by crystals. If it is not, it needs more time in the solution.
- If you like it but can see too much space between the pipe cleaners, you can return your structure to the solution so the crystals can continue to grow.
Growing an Egg Geode
Gather your materials.You will need a large white egg, a needle, a paper clip, a drinking straw, scissors, alum powder, white glue, a small paintbrush, a glass container, food coloring or easter egg dye, a spoon, latex gloves, and a drying rack or newspaper.
Blow out the egg.Take the needle and poke a small hole in one end of the egg. Unfold the paper clip and poke it into the egg. Stir to mix the yolk with the egg whites. Poke a hole in the other end of the egg that is large enough to contain a drinking straw. Position the egg above the sink or a bowl, and gently blow through the straw until the egg is empty.
Cut the shell in half.Use a small pair of scissors to cut the shell into 2 tidy halves. If you are having trouble splitting the eggshell, tap it lightly on the counter to crack it. Clean any remaining egg yolk from the shell.
Glue alum powder inside.Use your small paintbrush to apply white glue to the inside and the edges of each eggshell half. Sprinkle the wet glue with alum powder until the eggshell's inside surface is entirely coated.
- Leave to dry overnight.
Make a solution of boiling water and food coloring.Boil water and let sit while you get your glass container. Mix 2 cups (470 ml) of hot water with 30 drops of food coloring or an entire packet of egg dye in the container. Wear latex gloves to protect your hands from the dye.
Add ¾ cup (120 g) of alum powder to the hot dye solution.Stir until the powder is completely dissolved. If the powder is not totally dissolved, place the solution in the microwave for a few seconds. Otherwise, the alum might not attach to the geode.
Cool the mixture, then dip the eggshell in it.Let the mixture cool for about half an hour. Then dip one of the dry eggshell into the mixture. Position it at the bottom of the container so that its hollow faces up.
Remove the shell after 12 hours and let it dry.Put on your latex gloves and remove the geode very carefully. If you are pleased with the crystals, dry your geode on the rack. If not, return it to the solution for another day or so.
- You can reuse the solution to make a geode on the other half of the eggshell! Just heat the solution in the microwave first, so that the spare crystals dissolve.
- The eggshell is part of the geode. Do not attempt to remove it.
Growing a Cup of Crystals
Get the necessary supplies.You'll need Epsom salt, food coloring, a beaker or other heat-proof glass container (such as a measuring glass), and a transparent, rounded cup or bowl. The crystals will grow even if your cup is not round.
- Your crystals will not leave the container you grow them in, so make sure the container is transparent.
Boil water and stir in Epsom salt.Boil water, or use very hot tap water. Stir 1/2 cup (150 g) of Epsom salt into cup (120 ml) of hot water. Stir until almost all of the salt dissolves.
Add a couple of drops of food coloring.You can use any color you want. If you choose not to add food coloring, your crystals will grow whitish-clear, like ice.
Pour the solution into the cup and put it in the fridge.Use the round, transparent cup for this. Store it in the refrigerator for several hours. Cover it with a lid or plastic wrap if you wish. After a few hours, you should have a cup of delicate, fibrous crystals. If you leave it, it may last for months.
- Display your cup of crystals in a window so that the light shines through.
- For the biggest crystals, let the solution cool down as slow as possible. Keeping the heat in the mixture allows for a bigger crystal since the water evaporates slower. This also produces the purest crystals, as the impurities evaporate out of the solution.
Video: How to grow beautiful Red crystal of salt at home!
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