Temperature and Crystal Growth
Date: Spring 2010
I did an experiment on Does Temperature Affect Growth of
Crystals. I used three jars filled them with saturated solution
made of Borax. I placed strings in each jar. Air tight those jars
and placed one jar in refrigerator, one at room temperature and one
in an ice bath. I left them for 5-6 hours, I thought that more
crystals will grow in room temperature but to my surprise most
crystal grew in cold (refrigerator). I repeated it three days in a
row but got the same answer, I wanted to know why does crystal grew
more in cold temperature.
Your borax solution was saturated at room temperature when you made it,
but remember that the amount of solute (borax, in your case) that can be
dissolved to make a saturated solution, is much less as temperature falls.
So what started out as a saturated solution of borax at room temperature,
becomes a supersaturated solution at low temperature. Crystal growth from
a supersaturated solution proceeds much more rapidly... sometimes it is so
fast that you can actually see the crystals form as you watch.
You mention saturated solution, so I am going to assume you understand
the concept of solubility. For sodium borate, the warmer the water,
the higher the solubility of sodium borate. The solubility for sodium
borate is actually 4 times higher in near-boiling water than
near-freezing water. Thus, if the solution you made at room
temperature was saturated, it would be supersaturated at a colder
temperature, and the crystals will fall out of solution until it
reached its (lower due to being colder) saturation point. You may
still get a few crystals from the room temperature solution, but not
as many because it is still near its saturation point -- any crystals
that might randomly form may just return to solution. If you were to
warm the jars, (or make your saturated solution using colder-than room
temperature water) the crystals would redissolve over time and you
would have few or no crystals.
Hope this helps,
Was the solution saturated once the temperature changed? Usually a
substance is more soluble in warmer water than in cooler
water. Thus, when you put a solution that is saturated at room
temperature into a refrigerator and it cools it can become supersaturated.
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Update: June 2012