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Working of a crystal and Growing Different Types of Crystals

based on 11 ratings
Author: Janice VanCleave

What You Need to Know

A crystal is a solid in which the particles are packed in an ordered, repeating pattern. Precipitate is the process by which a solid falls out of a solution. Precipitation is the solid that precipitates.

How Does a Crystal Work?

A crystal is a solid made of repeating units of a substance. These units are in an organized pattern. Because of this organization, crystals of different substances have specific shapes. For example, a crystal of table salt, which is made of units of the chemical sodium chloride, has a cube shape.

What Does This Have to Do with Growing Crystals?

There is an attractive force between the particles in a solid. When solids are dissolved in water, they separate into individual particles. In a solution, these particles are evenly spread throughout the solvent particles. However, occasionally two solute particles are near each other. There will be some attractive force between these solute particles, and they will stick together. Generally, other forces cause them to separate. But if they stay together, they have a greater attractive force than do single particles. As a result a third solute particle sticks to them, then a fourth, and so on, until this cluster of particles, a crystal, can no longer remain dissolved, and it precipitates. If particles of solute continue to stick to the crystal's surface, the crystal grows. Crystal growth is much like stacking equal-size blocks. The shape of the blocks and how they fit together determines the shape of the crystal formed.

What Does This Have to Do with Growing Crystals?

Fun Fact

Diamonds are crystals made of carbon atoms. Coal is also a type of crystal made of carbon atoms. The difference between these two crystals is how the carbons stick together.

Real-Life Science Challenge

Proteins are very important body chemicals necessary for life. Unique chemical structures give each type of protein its own shape and determine its function. Chemical structures that stick out of proteins allow them to interact with other proteins and chemicals in an organism. By studying protein crystals, scientists can better understand the way proteins work. This knowledge could help scientists understand illnesses and develop more effective medicines. However, the structure of many proteins still remains a mystery because scientists are not able to grow these protein crystals large enough to examine.

Experiment

Now, start experimenting with growing crystals.

Caution: Ask for adult supervision if a solution needs to be heated.

Hints

  • Find information on different types of crystals.
  • Determine which crystal solutes fall out of a solution more easily.
  • Try different methods of growing crystals, such as using a surface where crystals may grow.
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