How Does a Sugar Crystal Grow?

Written by ezmeralda lee
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How Does a Sugar Crystal Grow?
Make sugar crystals to learn how the crystals form. (crystalline structure image by Adrian Hillman from Fotolia.com)

Making sugar crystals is one of the original science projects. One of the reasons that this science project is so popular is because it is relatively easy to do and there are fast results. It is easy to see the principles of evaporation and saturation with the sugar crystals. Discovering exactly how sugar crystals grow is a fun and exciting project for adults and children alike. Making sugar crystals is a good project for parents and children to do together to learn a little more about how the world works.

There are several different parts to the crystal-making process, and there are also two different ways that the crystals can be formed. There is a faster way and a slower way. Though they are the same, the faster way simulates what happens in the slow way in a much quicker manner.

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Saturating the Water

The basic principle behind growing sugar crystals is to saturate the water with sugar to the point where the water can no longer contain all of the sugar molecules. When this happens, if given the right conditions, the sugar will creep out of the water, forming crystals. This can either happen through over-saturation or through evaporation.

Hot and Cold Principles

When a liquid is hot, it can contain more molecules than when it is cold. This is because when the molecules are heated, they move around more, making room for more molecules. When the molecules freeze, they slow down and expand, making less room inside a solution for foreign materials. When making a sugar solution designed to make crystals, completely saturate hot water with sugar until no more can dissolve. This makes it possible for the crystals to grow when the water cools.

The Importance of Time

Even when a water solution has been saturated with sugar, it still takes time for crystals to form. Usually it takes about three weeks to get a good number of crystals. When using the evaporation method of making crystals, it can take even longer than that. The evaporation method of making crystals is the same way that mineral crystals are formed in nature. The water slowly evaporates over time and the mineral, or in this case sugar, deposits are left in a crystal formation.

How Crystals Form

Usually when growing sugar crystals you need to give the crystals something on which to form. This is generally a string suspended above and through the sugar solution. The reason that it is necessary to have the string is so that the crystals form faster and in a way that makes them easier to view. The string acts like a guide for where the crystals should form.

Why Evaporation is Necessary

Evaporation is necessary for crystals to form because if the water stayed, then the crystals would never form because they would be absorbed into the water. The evaporation causes the crystals to slowly form as the water leaves the container that the sugar is in.

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