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Bismuth Crystals (Dschwen)Are you looking for a gorgeous crystal to grow? Try bismuth crystals. Bismuth is a metal that forms interesting geometrical 'hopper' crystals that are rainbow-colored from the thin oxide layer that forms on them. You can get bismuth at a sporting goods store or you can order it online. The crystals only take a matter of seconds to grow, so give it a try!

Bismuth Crystal Materials

  • bismuth
  • 2 stainless steel measuring cups or aluminum cans that you have cut in half to make shallow bowls
  • a stovetop, hot plate, or propane torch
You have a few different options for obtaining bismuth. You can use non-lead fishing sinkers (for example, Eagle Claw makes non-lead sinkers using bismuth), you can use non-lead ammunition (the shot will say it is made from bismuth on the label), or you can buy bismuth metal. The quality of crystals you obtain depends in part on the purity of the metal, so make sure you are using bismuth and not an alloy.

Grow Bismuth Crystals

Bismuth has a low melting point (271C or 520F), so it is easy to melt over high cooking heating. You are going to grow the crystals by melting the bismuth in a metal 'dish' (which will have a higher melting point than the bismuth), separate the pure bismuth from its impurities, allow the bismuth to crystallize, and pour away the remaining liquid bismuth from the crystals before it freezes around the crystals. None of this is difficult, but it takes some practice to get the cooling time just right. Don't worry -- if your bismuth freezes you can remelt it and try again. Here are the steps in detail:

  • Place the bismuth in one of your metal 'dishes' and heat it over high heat until it melts. It's a good idea to wear gloves since you are producing a molten metal, which is not going to do you any favors if it splashes onto your skin. You'll see a skin on the surface of the bismuth, which is normal.

  • Preheat the other metal container. Carefully pour the melted bismuth into the heated clean container. You want to pour the clean bismuth out from under the gray skin, which contains impurities which would negatively affect your crystals.

  • Set the clean bismuth in its new container on a heat-insulated surface. The cooling rate of the bismuth affects the size and structure of the resulting crystals, so you can play with this factor. Generally, slower cooling produces larger crystals. You do not want to cool the bismuth until it is solid!

  • When the bismuth has started to solidify, you want to pour the remaining liquid bismuth away from the solid crystals. This happens after about 30 seconds of cooling. You can tell it is about the right time to pour the liquid away from your crystals when the bismuth is set, but has just a little jiggle to it when jarred. Sounds scientific, right?

  • Once the crystals have cooled, you can snap them out of the metal container. If you are not satisfied with the appearance of your crystals, remelt and cool the metal until it is just right.
If you try this project and would like to share your tips and tricks, please feel free to post a reply.

Comments

April 9, 2011 at 8:08 am
(1) mi-hai says:

Great Article Anne!! i totally want to grow Bi Chrystals. i just think im gonna look for a bit of translation with the last steps of the procedure. thx. a bunch:)

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