Sugar crystal rock candy science experiment | Fizzics Education

Make rock candy

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

Adult Help

300g Of Sugar

Saucepan or kettle with 500mL of water

Wooden kebab stick or chopstick

2 Clothes pegs

A glass

A metal spoon

A place to leave the experiment setup away from ants

Optional: food colouring

Making rock candy science experiment - materials needed
1 Making rock candy science experiment - adding hot water to a measuring jug

With adult help, carefully heat the water in a saucepan. You may want to add some food colouring as an optional extra too!

2 Making rock candy science experiment - stirring sugar into water

Stir in the sugar slowly, stirring constantly whilst the sugar dissolves. Keep adding sugar until you cannot dissolve the sugar crystals anymore. At this point just add a tiny bit more water and dissolve the leftover crystals as well.

3 Making rock candy science experiment - adding hot water to food colour in glasses

Pour the saturated sugar solution carefully into a glass.

4 Making rock candy science experiment - kebab stick in sugar solutions

Using pegs to suspend a chopstick on the saturated sugar solution

Use two clothes pegs to suspend the wooden kebab stick or chopstick in the sugar solution without the stick touching the sides of the glass. Place the glass in space where ants cannot get at it (you might want to cover the experiment with a cloth).

5 Multiple rock candy experiments

Multiple rock candy experiments 

You may want to setup several experiments to see if the crystal formation differs with different amounts of sugar in the water. It’s all about variable testing!

6 Rock candy growing

Rock candy beginning to grow on the chopstick

Observe the experiment over several days, taking note of when crystals start to form.

7 rock candy crystals

Rock candy crystals 

Run the experiment until you have grown the large sugar crystals along the stick (without the crystals touching the side of the glass).

Why Does This Happen?

You made a super-saturated solution of sugar and water! The sugar crystals could only stay dissolved whilst the water was hot. Cooling the solution down made it super-saturated, which is unstable. As the water cooled down, less of the sugar crystals could remain in the water and so they began to settle out onto the kebab stick, which effectively acted as a seeding crystal. The sugar was more likely to settle on the kebab stick rather than the glass as the kebab stick has a rougher surface. This rough surface gives plenty of microscopic nucleation points for the molecules of sugar to settle. Over time, more and more of the sugar continued to settle out of the solution onto the kebab stick and so your crystals continued to grow!

Simply put, 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!

Learn more!

Comments

2 thoughts on “Make rock candy

  1. This was pretty helpful. I’m glad this could help me for my science fair project but maybe you guys should include a little bit more on how they actually form and start to clump to the dowel or skewer. Thanks!

    1. Sure thing Amanda! It’s all about how rough the skewers are under a microscope. With super-saturated sugar solutions, the molecules of sugar more easily precipitate onto the rough surfaces of the kebab sticks than the smoother glass container. As the sugar molecules settle on the rough surfaces (also known as nucleation points), the crystallized sugar provides even more rough surfaces for the rest of the sugar to come out of solution. We’ve added a link into the post which takes to a detailed paper on seeding crystals too. Thanks for trying this science experiment, we’re glad that it helped your science fair project!

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