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Sep 20, 2020
I recently posted a quick video of how I create crystals. I kept it to a pretty simple process.
But many chemicals need some extra help to crystalize. The ones I showed, vanillin, lidocaine, and urea, all melt into a liquid when heated, and for these three, at pretty low temperatures. Some chemicals need much higher temperatures to melt and some won’t melt at all.
I use a temperature-controlled hot plate now, but when I first started, I used a bunsen burner with a live flame. I'd put a small amount of a chemical on top of the glass slide, add a coverslip, light the bunsen burner and hold the slide over the flame using a pair of pliers until the powder melted.
This had some potential problems, the first one being I needed to hold the slide straight so the coverslip didn’t slip off. The second one was I needed to pay close attention that I didn’t overheat the chemical. My main option to regulate the heat was to hold the glass slide higher or lower over the flame. Many times, I boiled the chemicals, destroying the chance they would form crystals. Also, if I held the slide too close to the flame, I would get black soot on the underside.
One of my early lessons learned was when I decided to blindly experiment and mixed four chemicals together on one slide. I added a coverslip and held the glass slide using the pliers over the bunsen burner’s flame. Some of the powder started to melt but others did not.
As the chemicals continue to heat up, that which had already melted started to boil and outgas. Still, the rest remained solid. I was determined for everything to go into a liquid. The glass slide was getting very hot. Even holding the pliers was getting questionable. My alarm was growing. Some of the chemicals were boiling vigorously, when the rest finally started to melt. Fortunately, the glass didn’t break, the flumes didn’t ignite, and nothing seemed toxic. I did have some interesting-looking crystals from the slide and one I printed, but I will never did that stupid trick again.
Crystals Images above are from the experimental 4-chemical mixture
I learned to research first how to bring a chemical into a liquid form. If the chemical melts with heat, then I need to know it's melting point temperature. If not, I need to find out how to get it into a solution.
Sometimes the chemical is water-soluble, sometimes it dissolves in alcohol. And just because a chemical melts with heat, I can still try dissolving it in water or alcohol. Each method can create different types of crystals. I have lots of experimentation options.
- Carol Roullard
Stay tune for Part 2 where I discuss how I find my future micro-crystal art.
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