The Chemistry of Sugar Crystals

Chemistry should be elevated to the reputation it deserves. Experiments in chemistry are be exciting and fun. Sometimes they can be downright tasty. Growing sugar crystals presents a fun way to study monoclinic crystals. This will include sharp right angles and smooth faces with a variety of sizes. Teach your children the fine work of the crystallographer by creating these incredible, edible sugar crystals.

You will need four cups of sugar, two cups of water, food coloring, wooden dowel, cotton string, a large canning jar, a paper clip and waxed paper. You can use a hot plate or the kitchen stove. Parental supervision is strongly recommended.

Put the water in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Add the sugar to the boiling water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. If you want colored sugar, add food coloring at this time. Pour the sugar/water solution in the canning jar. Cover the mouth of the jar with a piece of wax paper. Tie one end of the cotton string to a sterilized paper clip and tie the other end of the string to a bamboo skewer. 

Dip the string down into the jar. Remove the string and lay it flat on a piece of wax paper. Stretch it out and let it dry for a few days. This will also crystals to form which will give the crystals a place to grow. 

Lower the string in to the crystal solution until it reaches an inch or two from the bottom of the jar. Rest the wooden dowel on the top of the jar. Let the solution sit for at least seven days. Do not touch the solution until the experiment is over. 

Remove the string from the sugar solution and let it dry. Use a magnifying lens and view the crystals on the string. Compare the crystals to regular sugar crystals. 

For fun, use more than one string and repeat the experiment by growing crystals on multiple strings. Once the experiment is over, enjoy a tasty treat while you each the sugar crystal.

Another variation requires bamboo skewers. Dip it in the solution and let it dry, just as you did the string. Then, allow the sugar solution to evaporate on to the stick. You will notice that the crystals form in the same manner, but they will be easier to eat. 

Chemistry is fun when you can eat it. Start your study on crystallographer with sugar crystals but don’t forget to study them before you eat them.