Borax Crystals  

Materials:

  • Beaker or a wide-mouth jar
  • String
  • Colorful pipe cleaners
  • Pencil
  • Boiling water
  • Borax (20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster)

Directions:

  1. Cut and bend pipe cleaners into desired shape. It should easily fit into the jar you have with a least 1/2 inch of space all around. Pipe cleaners form a base for the crystals to grow in.  
  2. Now, attach string to the top of one of the pipe cleaners and tie the other end to a pencil (this is to hang it from). Remember that the crystals will also form on the string, so place it somewhere that it will still look nice.
  3. Fill a wide-mouth jar with boiling water. (measure how much you put in!)
  4. Mix borax into the water one tablespoon at a time. Use three tablespoons of borax per cup of water.
  5. Stir until dissolved, (don't worry if there is powder settling on the bottom of the jar).
  6. Insert your pipe cleaner shape into the jar so that the pencil is resting on  the lip of the jar and the snowflake is freely suspended in the borax solution. It should be completely submerged and not touch sides or bottom.
  7. Wait overnight and by morning the shape will be covered with shiny crystals.
  8. Hang in a window as a sun-catcher or use as a decoration.

The Science Behind the Fun
Borax is an example of crystal - "a solid with flat sides and a symmetrical shape because its molecules are arranged in a unique, repeating pattern."

Every crystal has a repeating pattern based on it's unique shape. They may be big or little, but they all have the same "shape". Salt, sugar, and Epsom salts are all examples of crystals. Salt crystals are always cube-shaped while snow crystals form a six-sided structure.

How do the Borax crystals grow?
Hot water holds more borax crystals than cold water. That's because heated water molecules move farther apart, making room for more of the borax crystals to dissolve. When no more of the solution can be dissolved, you have reached saturation.  As this solution cools, the water molecules move closer together again. Now there's less room for the solution to hold onto as much of the dissolved borax. Crystals begin to form and build on one another as the water lets go of the excess and evaporates.

This also applies to snowflakes - As water cools the molecules move closer together. Since all water molecules are shaped the same (H2O) they align in a six sided crystal.