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Borax Crystal Heart Science Project

Borax Crystal Heart

Borax Crystal Heart

Grow borax crystals overnight to make a beautiful sparkling crystal heart. Use the borax crystal heart as a decoration or simply grow it as a fun crystal project.

Borax Crystal Heart Materials

  • borax
  • water
  • pipecleaner

Make a Borax Crystal Heart

  1. Shape the pipecleaner like a heart. It’s fine to have a ‘stem’ at the bottom of the heart, since this will give you a way to suspend the heart in the crystal growing solution. You can always clip it later with scissors or wire cutters.
  2. Prepare the crystal growing solution by stirring borax into boiling hot water until it stops dissolving. You can tell you have enough borax if a little powder starts to accumulate in the bottom of the container.
  3. Add food coloring, if desired. Alternatively, if you want a colored heart you can simply use colored pipecleaners.
  4. Place your heart shape into a container. It’s best if the heart doesn’t touch the sides or bottom of the container, which you can achieve by hanging the heart from a pencil or butter knife. However, you’ll get decent results just setting the heart into the container. 
  5. Pour the borax crystal solution into the container, being certain all of the heart is covered. Try to avoid getting any undissolved solid into this container.
  6. Allow the crystals to grow on the heart for several hours or overnight. When you are satisfied with the crystals on the heart, remove it from the crystal solution and allow it to dry. You can hang the heart as a decoration. The crystal heart may be stored wrapped in tissue paper.

Borax Crystal Flowers for a Spring or Easter Bouquet

Grow pretty borax crystal flowers. These colorful flowers only take a few minutes to set up and a couple of hours to grow. It’s a fun project for kids and a great way to decorate with flowers that won’t ever wilt.

Borax Crystal Flower Materials

Spring Crystal Flowers

Spring Crystal Flowers (pipecleaners and borax)

Now, I recommend borax because it’s super-easy to grow the crystals, but if you can’t get hold of this chemical, you can use sugar, Epsom salts, alum, or table salt. The basic process is the same, no matter which substance you use. The difference is the size and shape of the crystals and how long it takes for them to form. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

  • colored pipecleaners (chenille craft sticks)
  • borax (or whatever you’re using)
  • water
  • tall glass
  • pencil
  • scissors or wire snips

Grow Crystal Flowers

  • The first step is to form the flowers. You can be as creative as you like, so long as the finished flower fits inside the glass, which will hold your crystal solution. I made the flowers shown here by spiraling pipecleaners around a pencil. Then I twisted one end of the “flower” to a green pipecleaner to form a stem. I made a couple of flowers this way and even a leaf. Use the scissors or wire snips to cut away excess flower-colored pipecleaner, but keep the green stems nice and long.
  • Turn your “bouquet” upside down and put it in the glass. Wrap the stem around the pencil and adjust the pipecleaner flowers so they don’t touch the bottom of the glass. It’s also best if they don’t touch the sides of the glass or each other, because they’ll stick together as crystals grow.
  • Remove the flowers/pencil from the glass.
  • Next, make the crystal growing solution. To do this, boil enough water to fill your glass. I used a tea kettle, but you can microwave the water in a microwave-safe bowl or run water through your coffee maker, etc.
  • Pour the water into a bowl or large cup and stir in borax (or whatever you’re using) until no more dissolves. You can tell you’ve reached the saturation point when you have undissolved solids at the bottom of your container, no matter how much you stir. This is the crystal growing solution.
  • Pour the solution into your glass, but avoid pouring in the undissolved solid. It’s no big deal if a little bit gets into the glass, but any solids will compete with your flowers for crystals.
  • Add the flowers to the glass of solution. Place the glass somewhere it won’t get spilled or disturbed.
  • Crystals will start growing within half an hour or so. It’s up to you how long to let them grow. If you want a light dusting of crystals, remove the flowers from the solution after an hour or two. For as many crystals as possible, leave the flowers in the liquid overnight.
  • Remove your flowers. Either hang dry them or set them on a paper towel. When they are dry, place them in a vase or use them as a decoration.

More Crystal Flowers

Another simple crystal flower to make using pipecleaners is a crystal rose. But, you don’t have to use pipecleaners. It’s also easy to grow crystals on a real flower!

Grow Crystals on a Starfish

Grow crystals on a starfish or a shell for a pretty beach-themed decoration.

Grow crystals on a starfish or a shell for a pretty beach-themed decoration.

Grow crystals on a starfish to make a sparkling crystal starfish ornament or decoration.

Crystal Starfish Materials

You can grow any crystal solution on the starfish, including borax, salt, alum, Epsom salt and sugar. Borax is nice because the crystals grow overnight and add a dainty sparkly appearance to the starfish. Also, these crystals survive storage and packing between holidays quite well.

  • small dried starfish
  • string
  • jar big enough to hold the starfish
  • string
  • hot water
  • borax (e.g., 20 Mule Team Borax

How To Grow Crystals on a Starfish

  1. Tie a string or piece of nylon fishing line to the starfish. Make certain the starfish can hang in the jar without touching the side or bottom. You can wrap the string around a pencil or butter knife to control its length. Remove the starfish from the container.
  2. Mix a solution of very hot or boiling water and borax. Keep stirring in borax until it stops dissolving. This will be when a small amount of solid material remains in the bottom of the container.
  3. Pour this solution into the jar.
  4. Suspend the starfish in the liquid. Make certain it is submerged, but not touching the jar. Allow the crystals to grow for several hours or overnight.
  5. Remove the crystallized starfish from the liquid and hang it to allow it to dry. That’s it! You can use it as a holiday ornament or other decoration.
  6. You can store the starfish by wrapping it gently in tissue paper to protect it from dust and humidity.

Tips and Tricks

  • Borax allows the natural color of the starfish to show. However, if you want to add color, you can. Simply add a small amount of food coloring when you mix the borax and water. The food coloring does not color the crystals, but it will dye the starfish.
  • Try growing crystals on small shells. You’ll have the best success with porous shells because they provide places for the crystals to attach and grow.

More Projects Using Borax

Make a Real Crystal Flower

Crystal Flower

If you grow crystals on a dandelion, it still looks pretty but won’t go to seed in your yard. (Anne Helmenstine)

There are lots of ways you can preserve flowers, including drying them and pressing them. This project crystallizes a real flower. It works for any flower, though I especially like how it turns weeds into works of art. It only take a few hours to grow the crystals.

Crystal Flower Materials

Use fresh or dried flowers for this project. It will work fine on silk or plastic flowers, too. You can color the flowers, but even if you don’t add dye, the borax will absorb natural tints from the petals, resulting in a muted color crystal.

real flower, fresh or dried
borax
hot water
food coloring (optional)

How To Crystallize the Flower

  1. First, find a container big enough for the flower head. Remove the flower from the container.
  2. Pour very hot to boiling water into the empty container.
  3. Stir in borax until it stops dissolving. This is the point when you start to see a little undissolved borax powder in the liquid.
  4. Add a few drops of food coloring, if desired. You could also add essential oils, if you want to scent the crystal flower.
  5. Immerse the head of the flower in the borax solution. Some flowers float, so you may need to place an object on top of the flower to keep it submerged.
  6. Allow a couple of hours to overnight for the crystals to grow.
  7. Remove the flower from the liquid and set it on a paper towel to dry.
  8. Place the flower in a decorative vase and bask in its beauty. If the stem of the flower is weak, you may wish to insert a wire or stick to help hold the flower upright. The crystal flower requires no water or other care, except perhaps a light dusting from time to time.

Enjoy your real crystal flower!

Bead Test for Metals

Have you ever wondered how scientists identify unknown substances? Unraveling the composition of an unknown is called qualitative analysis. The bead test is one of the techniques used by chemists to perform a qualitative analysis of a sample.

What is the bead test?

The bead test, sometimes called the borax bead or blister test, is an analytical method used to test for the presence of certain metals. The premise of the test is that oxides of these metals produce characteristic colors when exposed to a burner flame. The test is sometimes used to identify the metals in minerals. In this case, a mineral-coated bead is heated in a flame and cooled to observe its characteristic color.

How is the test performed?

First make a clear bead by fusing a small quantity of borax (sodium tetraborate: Na2B4O7 &#149 10H2O) or microcosmic salt (NaNH4HPO4) onto a loop of platinum wire in a Bunsen burner flame. Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) is used sometimes for the bead test, too. After the bead has been formed, coat it with a dry sample of the material to be tested and reintroduce the bead into the burner flame. The inner cone of the flame is the reducing flame; the outer portion is the oxidizing flame. Observe the color and match it to the corresponding bead type and flame portion. The bead test is not a definitive method for identifying an unknown metal, but may be used to quickly eliminate or to narrow possibilities.

What metals do colors indicate?

The following abbreviations are used in the tables:

  • h: hot
  • c: cold
  • hc: hot or cold
  • ns: not saturated
  • s: saturated
  • sprs: supersaturated

BORAX BEADS

ColorOxidizingReducing
Colorlesshc: Al, Si, Sn, Bi, Cd, Mo, Pb, Sb, Ti, V, W
ns: Ag, Al, Ba, Ca, Mg, Sr
Al, Si, Sn, alkaline earths, earths
h: Cu
hc: Ce, Mn
Gray/Opaquesprs: Al, Si, SnAg, Bi, Cd, Ni, Pb, Sb, Zn
s: Al, Si, Sn
sprs: Cu
Bluec: Cu
hc: Co
hc: Co
Greenc: Cr, Cu
h: Cu, Fe+Co
Cr
hc: U
sprs: Fe
c: Mo, V
Redc: Ni
h: Ce, Fe
c: Cu
Yellow/Brownh, ns: Fe, U, V
h, sprs: Bi, Pb, Sb
W
h: Mo, Ti, V
Violeth: Ni+Co
hc: Mn
c: Ti

MICROCOSMIC SALT BEADS

ColorOxidizingReducing
ColorlessSi (undissolved)
Al, Ba, Ca, Mg, Sn, Sr
ns: Bi, Cd, Mo, Pb, Sb, Ti, Zn
Si (undissolved)
Ce, Mn, Sn, Al, Ba, Ca, Mg
Sr (sprs, not clear)
Gray/Opaques: Al, Ba, Ca, Mg, Sn, SrAg, Bi, Cd, Ni, Pb, Sb, Zn
Bluec: Cu
hc: Co
c: W
hc: Co
GreenU
c: Cr
h: Cu, Mo, Fe+(Co or Cu)
c: Cr
h: Mo, U
Redh, s: Ce, Cr, Fe, Nic: Cu
h: Ni, Ti+Fe
Yellow/Brownc: Ni
h, s: Co, Fe, U
c: Ni
h: Fe, Ti
Violethc: Mnc: Ti

Reference: Lange’s Handbook of Chemistry, 8th Edition, Handbook Publishers Inc., 1952.

~ Anne Helmenstine