Friday, 9 October 2015

DIY: Fun Science grow your own crystal monsters

Using capillary action a cardboard cut out sitting in a saturated solution of dissolved crystals can create some amazing creatures! 
You can buy kits to do this, but why not make your own?

[CAUTION: do take care when doing this, supervise children, do not eat this stuff, and as with all things you will find other ways to do this, better ways to do this, and cheaper ways to do this.. this is just how I do it]

I have photographed my monster as he grew ... I have used commercial head and leg cardboard cutouts available from the Colorific Mutant Monster kits, as I didn't have time to make my own. You can make your own easily, just use lightweight card so it doesn't weigh the end product down!

What you need

Sodium Chloride (as table salt)
Food colouring
Thick blotting paper 
Laundry Blue (its that stuff you get in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket to make whites....white)
Ammonia (again in the cleaning aisle)
Small dish or tray
Warm water


Cut your shape/s from the blotting paper. I  replicated the design from the Monster kit as I loved that kit so much I wanted to make it again! I secured the blotting paper body and monster features with staples. The original kit has slots in it to secure the monster body and features, my replica was not as clever!

Dip the blotting paper into food colouring, I used yellow (as the original kit was yellow, and again I wanted to replicate this as I liked how it looked) but you can use a rainbow effect.. whatever works for you!

Mix 2 tablespoons of warm water with 2 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoons laundry blue, and 2 tablespoons of ammonia.
(Ammonia is used to speed the evaporation process, you can leave this out it won't alter the finished product, it will just take longer to work)

Mix well: the salt needs to dissolve to create a saturated solution

Carefully pour the solution into the tray or dish and place your cardboard monster on top.
Assembled and ready for the crystal solution
As the solution is drawn up the cardboard and the water and ammonia evaporate, you are left with crystals coloured by the food coluring growing on the cardboard!!

after one hour
After five hours

It can take a few hours for you to start seeing any of the crystals and around 12 - 24 hours for it to get to its full crystal capacity!!
If the crystals break off, just put them back into the tray and add some warm water, the capillary effect will cause these to again be drawn up and new crystals will form.
After 24 hours (thankyou to my colleague Jo for this photo of my monster that she has named 'Popcorn Man'
Cardboard contains cellulose and it is the capillary action of this that draws the solution up. The crystals form as the liquid evaporates.

Sodium Chloride makes quite compact crystals, if you use Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts) you will get elongated crystals. Epsom salts are great for making faux snowflake crystals!

I would love to see what you do with this!

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