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Growing salt crystals on objects to make interesting art forms or for a simple science experiment is easy and fun! Here I'll share how to grow crystals on 3D printed lattices and structures, but you can grow crystals on most anything you can imagine... or just on themselves.

This process is easy and only takes about 1 hour of active preparation and work, and a few days to grow.

If you're doing this as an introductory science experiment, growing crystal demonstrates how solutions are made and how the crystalline shapes of salt is formed. It is fun and fascinating to watch!

I embarked on this experiment to find out if I could guide the shape of the crystals to grow in a certain formation or size based on a lattice structure that I grew them on. Here's how I did it:

Step 1: Supplies

To grow your own salt crystals you’ll need:

  1. SALT!
    Crystals can be grown from almost any salt, however, for best results I suggest using copper sulfate or magnesium sulfate (epsom salt). You can also experiment with sodium chloride (table salt), sea salt, pink salt, etc. If you use copper sulfate, use nitrile gloves when handling.
    I’m using Epsom Salt for this Instructable.
  2. Distilled Water
  3. Clean Container at least 2 inches around larger than what you are growing salt onto.
    Clear containers are visually interesting so you can easily watch what’s growing, and using cook wear is the best option, as they generally retain heat and will not break.
  4. Object to grow crystals on or a string.
    Experiment with lattice structures like I did if you'd like!
  5. Something to suspend your object in solution: sticks, chop sticks, wire, string, or a stand etc.
  6. Cooking Pot large enough to boil the right amount of water and salt for your project.
  7. Stirring Spoon

Step 2: Make Salt Solution

  • Measure out water:
    • Place your object in your container.
    • Pour water into your container with object to figure out about how much water you will need.
    • Then pour that water into a measuring container to evaluate how much water you've measured.
      (I used a 12 cup measuring cup)
  • Measure out salt: 3 parts water to 1 part salt
    (a saturated solution is a little under 30% salt)
  • Boil water.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to low.
  • Stir in the salt you measured into the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Turn off heat.
  • Carefully pour the solution into your container with object in it. (If you are using a glass jar or container, put your spoon into the container before adding the water can help prevent the container from breaking.)
  • Place the container with solution in the location that you will leaving the salt to grow.

Step 3: Suspend Object or String in Salt Solution

To Grow Salt Alone:

  • Place a stick or spoon across the center top of your container.
  • Tie a string in the center of that stick that hangs down into the solution 1 1/2 inches off of the bottom of container or more.
  • Leave the container where it will not be disturbed and watch your crystals grow


Growing Salt on an Object:

Similar to the above method, suspend or tie your object to the string so it is suspended in the solution with at least 2 inches of solution between the object and the container it is growing in.

Alternatively, you may suspend your object in the solution by using sticks or wire.


Since my structures were lattices, I used chop sticks to suspend the objects in solution, as well as hanging with wire.

Step 4: Wait for Your Crystals to Grow!

Do not disturb your container, but check in on your crystal growth often.

I suggest leaving your crystals to grow for at least 1 day, but you can leave it up to 3 days for greater results. There is a certain point where the majority of salt is used and crystals will not grow any larger.

Step 5: Gently Remove Your Crystals From Solution

Gently remove your string or piece out of the solution when you feel like your crystals have grown to a desired shape and size. If crystals have connected between the container to your piece, use a butter knife to gently release the crystals from the edge of the container, taking caution not to disturb the form you are growing.

Step 6: Want Bigger Crystals?

Before removing the string or object with crystals from its method of suspension, evaluate it and determine if you'd like to grow larger crystals. If you'd like larger crystals, you can repeat this process and continue to grow the crystals larger. You will have to make a new salt solution every time.

If repeating the process to grow larger crystals, the very important difference is after boiling and making salt solution to LET THE WATER COOL TO ROOM TEMP before re-submerging your string or piece.

If you do not do this, the hot water will melt the crystals that you grew and it will be like starting over.

Step 7: Samples

Here are photos of crystals that I grew over 3 solutions, check out the difference in size of the crystals.

I achieved the gradient effect by submerging the lattice deeper every time I put it in solution.

Step 8: Enjoy Your Crystals!

Once you have grown your crystals to the desired size, gently remove your string/object from its method of suspension. Let your piece dry on a towel. ENJOY!


For future experiments, you may try using tap vs distilled water, colored water, and try using different types of salt including iodized salt, un-iodized salt, sea salt, or even salt substitutes. What are the difference in the crystals?

You may further explore your crystals in a microscope!

Also, what do you notice by growing crystals on different structures?

I was surprised to find that the crystals grown on the white 3D powder print made of different size lattices grew different size crystals on each level.

Thank you to the Pier 9 3D Print Lab for giving me broken 3D prints to experiment with. This powder print was originally mathematically designed and made by John Edmark for his fascinating Blooms project.

Learn how to make them yourself in his Blooms: Phi-Based Strobe Animated Sculptures Instructable

Step 9: EXPERIMENT, SHARE WHAT YOU GROW & HAVE FUN!

Step 10: More Information on Crystal Growth

MORE INFO!
Here's more info on growing crystals from http://nobel.scas.bcit.ca/ to inform your interest and experiments!


The study of crystals and their structure is a field called Crystallography. A crystal is a solid that consists of the various atoms, or molecules being arranged in a uniform repeating pattern based on its unique shape. This results in the material having a specific shape and colour, and having other characteristic properties. Crystals may be big or little, but they all have the same "shape". Take a look at the display of crystals in the lab. Salt and sugar are examples of crystals. Table salt is NaCl and has a cube-shaped structure. Snow crystals form a six-sided structure. Diamond (used in jewelery, and cutting tools) is also an example of a crystal; it is made of pure carbon. Graphite (used in pencils and lubricants) is also a crystal made from carbon.


How are crystals grown?
In a solution, a solvent (water) can only hold a certain amount of solute. This is called thesolubility of a solution. When the temperature of the solution is increased, hot water can dissolve more solid substance than cold water. This is because heated water molecules move farther apart, making room for more solid substance to dissolve. When no more of the solid substance can be dissolved, the solution is said to be saturated. As this solution cools, the water molecules move closer together again and there's less room for the solution to hold onto as much of the dissolved solid. Crystals begin to form and build on one another as the water lets go of the excess solute. This process is called recrystallization and, depending upon conditions, one may obtain a mass of many small crystals or one large crystal.

How do crystals form and how do we control its rate of growth?
In this experiment, you will be growing crystals from a saturated solution. During recrystallization, crystals start growing by a process called "nucleation". Particles of dust on the surface of the solution can initiate crystalization. However, this situation is somewhat uncontrolled. To get controlled growth, a "seed crystal" is tied on a piece of thread and is submerged in the solution. As the temperature of the solution continues to drop, more crystals will accumulate on the thread. The rate at which crystallization occurs will affect crystal quality. The best crystals are the ones that grow SLOWLY.


KEY TERMS

Crystal - A crystal is a solid with a definite geometric shape. The shape consists of smooth, flat surfaces that meet in sharp edges or corners.

Crystallography - A branch of Chemistry that studies crystals and their structure.

Nucleation - When solute molecules in a saturated solution encounter a dust particle or a solid surface (like a string or a seed crystal), they will tend to adsorb and aggregate on the surface. The solid surface provides the nucleation site for the formation of crystals.

Recrystallization - Recrystallization is a process that has been used to purify solid material by dissolving the solid substance in an appropriate liquid and then having the material come out of solution in crystalline form.

Saturated Solution - Solution where the maximum amount of solutes is dissolved in the solvent.

Seed Crystal - A starting surface for a growing crystal.

Shape of Crystal - The atoms in a crystal occupy positions with definite geometrical relationships to each other. This structural arrangement of its atoms. is uniquely defined by the chemistry of the substance and determines the shape of the crystal. In crystallography, the shapes of crystals can be grouped into seven systems: Cubic Tetragonal Hexagonal Trigonal Orthorhombic Monoclinic Triclinic

Solubility - The maximum amount of solute that can be dissolved in a certain volume of solvent at a given temperature is known as the solubility of the solute. The solubility of the solute usually increases with an increase of temperature. Solute - Dissolved substance in a solution.

Solution - A uniform mixture of two or more substances. For example, sugar dissolved in water is a solution.

Solvent - The liquid into which the solute is dissolved. The solvent of choice in this project is water.

<p>That is SO cool!</p>
<p>Can you add food coloring or such to the mixture without compromising the integrity of the salt crystals solution?</p>
<p>yes food colouring can be added to make awesome crystals. I dont believe it affects the integrity</p>
<p>How fragile are they ? and is it possible to strengthen them ?</p>
<p>This is probably the dumbest question possible, but can you eat these?</p>
<p>If you use table salt, yes, you can eat them. But if you want to eat it all at once, you should take care that you have sufficient drinking water available. It is likely that your body can handle this amount of salt IF you drink enough water. If you don't drink enough, however, you'll die of hypernatremia, which is scientific mumbo jumbo for sodium poisoning. Either way, it will NOT be healthy, and would be lethal for a dog, cat or sheep.</p><p>If you use Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) then yes, you can eat them, but I wouldn't recommend eating them whole either because you will get hypermagnesemia. Especially if you have a predisposition to kidney diseases, this can be deadly or lead to permanent health problems.</p>
<p>You can eat salt crystals if you don't care about sodium and calories but it kinda would be better to eat sugar crystals.;D</p>
<p>I don't advise eating these creations. Super important to point out DO NOT EAT ANY SALTS GROWN ON 3D PRINTS, they are toxic. <br><br>If you're looking for crystals to grow and eat, how about rock candy? Its just as simple as growing salt crystals, and fun! <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Homemade-Rock-Candy/"> https://www.instructables.com/id/Homemade-Rock-Can...</a></p>
<p>If you use table salt, yes, you can eat them. But if you want to eat it all at once, you should take care that you have sufficient drinking water available. It is likely that your body can handle this amount of salt IF you drink enough water. If you don't drink enough, however, you'll die of hypernatremia, which is scientific mumbo jumbo for sodium poisoning. Either way, it will NOT be healthy, and would be lethal for a dog, cat or sheep.</p><p>If you use Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) then yes, you can eat them, but I wouldn't recommend eating them whole either because you will get hypermagnesemia. Especially if you have a predisposition to kidney diseases, this can be deadly or lead to permanent health problems.</p>
<p>Going to try this this summer! Awesome stuff!</p>
<p>what's the longevity on these? i would think in damp tropical locations they would melt? I bought a himalayan salt lamp and I had to return it sadly because in FL high humidity the salt was attracting moisture and pooling all over my countertop. Himalayan lamps are supposed to emit negative ions, very favorable for health, so these might also?</p>
<p>These are fragile and I would assume would &quot;melt&quot; in tropical locations - what I am not sure about is if certain salts are more/less susceptible to dissolving in humidity and which salts would be best for that. I am exploring how to make more permanent versions... look out for an Instructable on this in the future.</p>
<p>I love it, very cool!! And excellent instructable, very well explained and such nice pictures.</p>
<p>Neither these crystals nor Himalayan (or any other) salt lamps give off negative ions to the air. They are however very beautiful and give off pretty light, which in and by itself is conducive to a healthy living environment.</p>
<p>What's the best way to preserve them once they are finished?</p>
<p>Keep them away from water.</p>
<p>@<a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/discgolftrainnut" style="">discgolftrainnut</a> I don't know? Doing some experiments and will post another Instructable when I find a good preservation method :)</p>
<p>Google me traduce automaticamente. El problema es que estan los elementos que hay que utilizar pero no esta la praparacion. </p><p>muchas gracias !!!</p>
<p>Hi @ciclamen! Measurements are 1 part salt to 3 parts water, so if you have 6 cups water, use 2 cups salt. Check out Step 2 for more info. Does this answer your question?</p><p>Hola! Las medidas son 1 parte de sal a 3 partes de agua, por lo que si usted tiene 6 tazas de agua, usar 2 tazas de sal. Echa un vistazo a la Etapa 2 para obtener m&aacute;s informaci&oacute;n. &iquest;Responde esto a su pregunta?</p>
<p>So rad! All of the geometries are so fascinating!</p>
<p>Amy if you didn't understand the Spanish replies they said you gave how to make them but not instruction on how to create the crystals I believe they want to know exact amounts</p>
thank you @audreyobscura!
<p>Have you tried other crystalline solutions, and adding colors would be super cool, but they turn out lighter (more pastel-like) than the solution color. Great 'ible!</p>
<p>This is seriously cool.. I'm going to try this soon!</p>
<p>Interesting!</p><p>Was wondering whether this might work if the water was colored- say with food coloring, acrylic paint, dye, etc. Then could use a different color for each solution, creating a multi-color crystal. </p><p>Thoughts? </p>
ooohhh! What a fantastic idea :) I would try food coloring, rit dye, india ink. I'd stay away from acrylics as they may weaken the solution. Keep in mind that the dyes will color the object you are growing on. Please share what you make and let us know what you learn!
<p>Most salts are more soluble in hot water than cold water - but Sodium Chloride isn't - and few salts will dissolve in proportions of 1 part salt to two parts of water.</p><p>Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solubility_table</p>
<p>Where can I get a 3D print file for the lattice? We have a service around here like Uber, but for 3D printers.</p>
<p>shades of high school at home christmas project/lab you getter show up with one or fail chem!</p>
<p>Wow, these are nice!</p>
<p>Very nice instructable:)</p>
<p>Thanks for the 'ible! I'm going to do this with my science class.</p>
<p>When I was young I also used <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alum">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alum</a> But with those 3D printed objects it looks much more fascinating.</p>

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