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Make crystal snowflakes from borax

You will need:

  • 2 cups of hot water (roughly 250mL). Adult help with this please!
  • 4 teaspoons of Borax... ask for this in the laundry section of your supermarket or try the hardware store.
  • 1 x 10cm string length and two cups.
  • 1x Popsicle sticks or you could simply use the spoons themselves.
  • Some pipecleaners and some scissors.
  • 2 - 3 days for the crystals to grow.

    borax snowflake materials
    You can find everything you need in the local shops!

Instructions

 
  1. Twist the pipecleaners into a snowflake shape (or you could make a Christmas tree or a star!). You may want to use the scissors to trim the shape a little bit. You want to make sure that the snowflake can fit inside your cup with adequate room for the crystals to grow.
     
  2. Tie the string onto the pipecleaner snowflake

    pipecleaner and string snowflake
    String and pipecleaners
     
  3. Tie the string onto a popsicle stick and leave to one side.
     
  4. Add 250mL of hot water to a cup and stir 4 teaspoon of borax into the water so that it completely dissolves (adult help is a must!).
     
  5. Suspend the pipecleaner snowflake into the borax solution, making sure that the pipecleaners do not touch the sides or bottom of the cup.

    pipecleaner suspended in borax solution
    Suspended pipecleaner snowflake in a borax solution 
     
  6. Wait for at least 48 hours and should see Borax crystals forming on the pipecleaner! You might want to keep the newly made crystal snowflake in the borax solution for longer but you may find the crystals begin to touch the side of the cup which will lose some of the intended shape.

    finished borax snowflake after 2 days
    Borax crystal snowflake after 2 days
finished borax snowflake for christmas
Finished borax crystal snowflake!
 
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Why Does This Happen?

The borax crystals could only stay dissolved whilst the water was hot. Cooling the solution down made it super-saturated, which is unstable. As water cooled down less of the borax crystals could remain in the water and so they began to settle out onto the pipecleaners, which effectively acted as a seeding crystal. More and more of the borax continued to settle out of the solution onto the pipecleaners and so your crystals continued to grow!

The longer it takes to form a crystal, the larger the crystal will be.
This works whether you are talking about crystal growing kits, making liquid nitrogen ice-cream or gemstones!
Check out the link on crystals formed by volcanoes; Indianapolis Childrens Museum

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