Question about Scientific Explorer Ultimate Crystal Growing Kids Scientific Explorer Kit

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Instructions for purple crystal growing kit wild republic

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Hi, Plantmasterz,

Here's something I hope you will find useful until you can find your chemistry kit's instructions manual.

Please allow me to give you some general instructions that might serve you well despite not having your instruction manual. I have had a lot of experience growing crystals, starting way back when I was a high school sophomore, and later after my college days when I was a chemical researcher often needing to purify chemical compounds. There were many different methods I used, but crystallization has always been one of my favorite ways, especially when my lab was in my childhood home's kitchen. Back then I followed detailed recipes (like you are probably expecting) from library books, but I always found them so tedious because of their many steps.

I think you might appreciate a simpler set of instructions that'll give you the general ideas behind successful crytal growing that you could apply to almost any inorganic chemicals ("salts") you have available in your chemistry kit or in your home.

The General Method (no details at first to give you just the overview - for details see the very bottom of this posted message.)

  1. Prepare a saturated solution of the chemical compound (the "solute") in water (the "solvent") at room temperature.
  2. Decant (pour off) most of the clear solution into another container, a process that allows you to separate the liquid from the excess solid on the bottom, so the liquid is particle-free.
  3. Add slightly more of the solid chemical to the saturated solution, keeping a record of how much you added.
  4. Heat the heterogeneous mixture (liquid + undissolved solid) to dissolve all of the solid.
  5. Filter out any undissolved solids particles to produce a perfectly clear (no noticeable particles) solution, still at the elevated temperature. If the chemical compound is colored, the solution should be that color, but clear.
  6. Cover the top of the clear hot solution (loosely wrapped aluminum foil or paper towel) and let it cool slowly back down to room temperature. At this point you will have made what is called a supersaturated solution. That is what you need for successful crystal growing.
OK, now while the solution is cooling down, you can get different and interesting results depending on what you do next.

You could do one or more of the following steps:

  • Let the solution continue to cool down slowly undisturbed and let crystals begin to form spontaneously. This could take minutes, hours, or days, depending on a) the solute, b) the amount of chemical you added in step 2, and/or c) on how fast the solution cools. YOUR CRYSTALS WILL BE LARGER IF THEY FORM SLOWLY. THE FASTER THEY FORM, THE SMALLER THEY WILL BE. There's a lot of experimentation you could do to obtain optimum results! Just keep a record of how much chemical used, and every step of your procedure, so you can reproduce what you did, and so you can have a reference upon which to make small measurable changes in your scientific investigations.
  • Gently scratch the inside of the container (preferably made of glass) just below the surface of the room-temperature liquid with a glass stirring rod. Do this if you get impatient, since this technique often speeds up the crystallization process. The scratched surface, if you could see it under a high-powered microscope, would reveal broken silicon oxide bonds (from the molecular structure of glass) that would attract ions from your solute and initiate the crystallization process. You would see tiny crystals forming at the freshly scratced surface. They would become the nucleus or center for crystal growth. If you are using an glass container that has had a lot of use, there will already be enough scratched surfaces to do the job without your using a stirring rod. If you want more control on the rate of crystallization, I recommend that you use a brand new unused glass container.
  • Suspend your best tiny seed crystal (of the same substance) inside the cooling solution. Tie it with a length of sewing thread tied to the end of a pencil or other rod-shaped support. Hang the seed crystal away from the sides and bottom of the container. This will cause most of the solute to grow only on your seed crystal and not so much on the glass surfaces. You can get really big crystals this way! The seed crytal would have to be large enough to allow tying with sewing thread.
  • How to grow a seed crystal and successfully position it: The seed crystal can be made by pouring a small volume of the still hot solution into a petri dish or some other small container like a saucer or dessert bowl or cup, etc, to have a shallow liquid level. Cover very loosely with paper towel and let the water evaporate. You want it to evaporate faster than your main solution above, but slow enough to allow crystals large enough to tie with thread. BE CAREFUL NOT TO SUSPEND THE SEED CRYSTAL IN THE SOLUTION WHILE IT IS STILL HOT ENOUGH TO DISSOLVE IT. Let the solution cool just a little. Keep trying until your seed crystal does not dissolve; it's no big thing if it does, just tie another one and try again until you succeed. It will take some practice.
Salts that are often used for successful crystallization experiments are:

  • copper sulfate pentahydrate, CuSO4*5H2O. I'm using the asterisk to indicate that the water molecules are bonded to the metal. You can probably buy this salt at gardening shops, because it is used as a fungicide and also as a root killer to control tree root growth. It also is sometimes called "blue vitriol" or "bluestone." You probably guessed it, this hydrate is a beautiful blue crystalline solid.
  • aluminum potassium sulfate, KAl(SO4)2*12H2O, also known as potash alum (icolorless), and can be bought in a grocery store, because it is used in pickling.
  • chromium potassium sulfate, KCr(SO4)2*12H2O, also known as chrom alum (dark violet), and is used in tanning leather.
More details regarding the "General Method" described at the top: (the step numbers refer to the same steps listed above.)

  • Step 1 - Add enough chemical until the solid no longer dissolves but instead just falls to the bottom of the container. Add, stir, add, stir, etc, until you get a small layer of solid on the bottom of the container. This process allows you to form the needed saturated solution. It can hold only a certain amount of the chemical at a given temperature.
  • Step 2 - You could omit this decantation step if you were satisfied with the amount of solid on the bottom of the container.
  • Step 3 - You could also omit this step if you decided to use the solid already placed on the bottom of the container during step 1. However, using steps 2 and 3 as originally listed at the top might be better if you would like to be able to measure the amount of extra solid used.
  • Step 4 - This heating step necessary to convert the saturated solution into an unsaturated solution, that is a solution that has not reached its maximum level of dissolved solute. For most solutes, their ability to dissolve in water increases with temperature. The higher the temperature, the more salt can dissolve in a given volume of solvent.
  • Step 5 - This filtering step is needed to remove impurities, including dust, which could interfere with the crystallization process. You could use an oven mit to hold the container while you tilt it and pour the liquid into another (clean) container. Or, fold some paper towels together to use as an insulating strap to wrap around the neck of the container with both hands as you pour. DO THIS QUICKLY TO AVOID RAPID AND UNCONTROLLED COOLING. Too fast cooling will almost always result in the formation of small crystals.
  • Step 6 - Place the still hot container of clear solution on top of a dry insulated surface to avoid a rapid transfer of heat and uncontrolled cooling.
Good luck!


Posted on Jan 11, 2011


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