HOW TO: Christmas Chemistry Creations

This holiday season, we’re bringing you a series of fun science projects you can do at home – all with a holiday theme. In the first part in the series, Kat teaches us how to make the holidays sparkle!

Use this wonderful chemistry concoction to “grow” your own amazing Christmas decorations!

Things you will need:
20 Mule Team Borax – available at the grocery store with the laundry detergents
Pipe cleaners (also known as craft stems)
Wide mouthed Mason jar
Parental Guidance

How to do it:
Shape the pipe cleaners into various shapes such as simple star shapes, circles, diamonds, angels, or whatever shape you wish.  Make sure the ornament shape fits easily inside your mason jar.
Tie a piece of string to your ornament and the other end of the string to the pencil. 
Fill your jar (with parental guidance of course!) with boiling water.
Add borax to the jar a tablespoon at a time.  Stir until it is dissolved before adding another tablespoon.  The formula that works best is 3 tablespoons of borax to each cup of water used.  Don’t worry if some un-dissolved borax is at the bottom of the jar.
Hang your pipe cleaner creation in the jar with the pencil across the top of the jar to suspend it.  The pipe cleaner should be fully immersed in the solution and hang freely without touching the bottom of the jar. 

Find a safe spot for your jar and leave it alone overnight.

The next morning you will have a beautiful crystal creation that you made yourself!

What’s going on here?
When you add borax to the hot water and stir you are creating a saturated solution.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that the water can hold no more borax (this is obvious when there is un-dissolved borax at the bottom of the jar).  Hotter water can dissolve more solute (in this case borax) than colder water can. When our saturated borax solution begins to cool, it can no longer hold as much borax as it could while hot (it is temporarily a supersaturated solution).  This “extra” borax attaches itself to the pipe cleaners in the form of crystals.