Crystalline Christmas

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Everyone knows the best christmas ornaments are those you made yourself – preferably together with other people. Of course from a chemist everyone expects a bit more than cut out stars to add sparkle to the holiday. In BEYONDbones, a blog created by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, I found a recipe that does just that.

First you need to get some pipe cleaners, Borax and some sort of open container. And hot water. The procedure is rather simple, I should think that most readers here did something like this before: Pour hot water into the container and create a saturated solution of borax. Bend the pipe cleaners into suitable shapes (stars, butterflies, buckminster fullerens) and insert them into the hot, saturated borax solution over night. The borax will crystallize on the pipe cleaner and form a cover of large, sparkly crystals. The borax is transparent, so you can also influence the color of your ornament by choosing colored pipe cleaners

This works with a number of other chemicals as well. If you can’t get borax, try sugar or sodium bicarbonate. If you have access to an inorganics lab you are spoilt for choice, of course. Let us know your favorite crystal-growing salt.

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