For Kids

Science Experiment: Supersaturation - Growing Borax Crystals


07/13/2020 | Science Experiments

Crystals

Crystals are made when a substance has atoms or molecules that form in a very organized, repeating, 3D pattern. Usually when we think of crystals we think of some well-known gemstones like diamonds or rubies, but there are some very common crystals too. Sugar, ice, snowflakes, salt...all of these are crystals. You can make your own crystals grow using borax. Borax is a laundry detergent booster. You can find borax in the laundry room at home or in the laundry detergent section at the grocery store.

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Try this experiment at home! You will need:

  • Glass Jar
  • Pencil or Pen
  • String
  • Pipe Cleaner
  • Borax
  • Pitcher
  • Measuring Cup
  • Tablespoon
  • Hot Tap Water
  • Piece of Yarn or Cotton String, about 6 inches long

Fill a pitcher with 3 cups hot tap water. (Not so hot that you can't touch it!) Add 3 tablespoons of Borax for each cup of water. We used 3 cups of hot tap water and 9 tablespoons of Borax. A mason jar was a great container for this. Stir the mixture.

If all of the Borax dissolves, add a little more Borax and stir. Add Borax until the water can't dissolve it anymore - the mixture is saturated. That means the water is holding as much of the Borax as it can. In fact, this solution is supersaturated, that means the water is holding even more Borax than it normally would because the water has been heated. Now pour this supersaturated solution in the glass jar.

Make a shape out of the pipe cleaners and tie one end of the string to it. We made a snowflake shape out of pipe cleaners to see if we could make a snowflake crystal. Tie the other end of the string to the middle of the pen. Hang the pipe cleaner shape down in the jar with the pen across the top of the jar to keep it from touching the bottom of the jar. Watch what happens in the jar over the next few weeks.

srpboraxgrowth

Here is what our crystals looked like after growing on the pipe cleaner snowflake for about 2 weeks. The secret to good crystals is having a supersaturated solution.

Science Project Idea: Grow three different borax crystal snowflakes. You need three glass jars that are exactly alike. Fill one with cold tap water and one with hot tap water. Get an adult to help you fill the last jar with boiling water. Now add Borax to each jar until the Borax will not dissolve anymore. The warmer the water, the more Borax will dissolve in the water. That's because heating the water helps it become supersaturated. Now add the pipecleaner snowflakes and compare the crystals that grow over the next couple of weeks. Which jar has the most crystals? Which jar has the largest crystals?


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