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    The Beauty of Chemicals
    By Enrico Uva | May 9th 2011 11:54 AM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Enrico

    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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    Many pure substances in the laboratory are either dull, white powders or dull, coloured powders. If they are dissolved and allowed to crystallize slowly, their geometry becomes apparent to the naked eye, and light interacts with crystals far more elaborately. In nature's laboratory, impurities, heat, and pressure help convert compounds and elements into minerals. These new forms retain their basic ratios of bonded atoms, but as the philosopher Santayana would say, minerals now objectify pleasure---in other words, they become beautiful. Scroll down to see a few examples:
    Mineral Main Chemical Compound


    Pic from http://www.mineralatlas.com/mineral%20photos/M/marcasite2.jpg
    Marcasite(FeS2) FeS2

    Pic from Wikipedia.
    Bornite(Cu5FeS4) Cu5FeS4

    Pic from http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/minerals/calcite.htm
    Calcite CaCO3

    Pic from http://www.gc.maricopa.edu/earthsci/imagearchive/realgar.jpg
    Realgar AsS

    Pic from author.
    Amethyst SiO2

    Pic from http://www.sedgwickmuseum.org/education/gallery.html
    Sulfur S

    Pic from author.
    Sucrose
    (not really a mineral but I formed this crystal of a common organic compound by forgetting about a saturated solution in the fridge.)
    C12H22O11

    Comments

    Ladislav Kocbach
    The sucrose crystal is really beautiful - for it being what it is. Do you have some other ideas what to make into "crystals" in an average household? When my children were small and we had a sort of plastic microsope, we have been growing tiny crystals on threads and fibers and looked at them enlarged. That time there was no internet - and I am just a theoretical physicist - so I could not quickly get better ideas. Now my grandchildren are in the right age. SO we should make some crystals now. Any good advices?
    UvaE
    As described, the sugar crystal growth was a lucky accident. The only other crystals I have grown with success have been the standard CuSO4 and alum( KAl(SO4)2.12H2O ), which are not exactly household materials. But now that you mention it, this summer I plan on trying some with household materials. I'll let you know and hopefully have more pictures to show for it!
    payaljs
    Amazing, it reminds me of the ice crystals. Oh, and the image of sulphur reminds me about when I added dull-looking, stinky sulphur powder in milk and heated it. I got something like the image above.  
    UvaE
    My first experience with sulphur: at the age of 12 or 13, a friend of mine lit a small amount from his chemistry set and mischievously asked me to smell it. Drawn by the blue flame I got too close and the sulphur dioxide went into my nostrils like a knife!. But I do enjoy that glistening, canary-yellow surface of large sulphur crystals.