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The United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014). The idea was conceived by the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) and the aim of IYCr2014 was to stimulate awareness of the importance of Crystallography, and the benefits that have been derived from its study and application.

RADMASTE designed a set of activities and suitable resources that cover several aspects of crystals and crystallography, to meet the needs of IYCr2014.

RADMASTE Crystallography Activities for IYCr2014

Our suite of four activities allows primary and secondary school learners (and adults) the opportunity to engage hands-on with crystals and their properties. This is really the only way that learners are stimulated to learn more about science – working with real substances, modelling, observing, hypothesising, discussing, etc. The four activities are entitled:



Activity 1: Growing Crystals

This is a two-part activity where learners, guided by their teachers, first prepare a saturated solution of copper sulfate. Initial crystallisation produces rhombus-shaped seed crystals, one of which is used to grow a single, perfect, beautiful blue copper sulfate pentahydrate crystal (CuSO4.5H2O(s)). Learners observe the crystal growth and nurture their crystal. The activity also addresses concepts of solubility, saturated solutions and temperature effects on these.



Activity 2: Crystals Great and Small


This activity allows learners to discover the difference between crystalline and amorphous substances through close observation of crystals great and small. Learners use a hand-held microscope to observe the angles, faces and symmetry of big quartz crystals which have been naturally grown for millions of years, and then they use the same microscope to examine everyday solids such as salt, sugar, washing powder, sand, pepper, etc.






Activity 3: Modelling Crystals with Beads

Engineers did not invent crystal-growing - Nature has been doing this forever! This activity gives learners the opportunity to understand the symmetry of crystals they have observed in Activities 1 and 2, by building crystal models using small beads and prestik. For the teacher, this links significantly with the Particle Model of Matter and chemical bonding.

This pyramid shape is formed by a regular pattern of beads (atoms/molecules).


Activity 4: Diffraction Patterns

In order for crystallographers to determine exactly how atoms or molecules are arranged within a crystal, they pass X-rays through a crystal and record the resulting pattern of dots on an X-ray film. This pattern is due to the X-rays being diffracted by the particles (atoms or molecules) in the crystal. The brightness, position and symmetry of dots in each pattern tell crystallographers about the arrangement of the particles in the crystal being studied.

We can simulate X-ray diffraction by producing diffraction patterns using visible light. In this activity, learners have access to red and green laser pointers that they shine on different everyday materials. The spectacular demonstrations give them some insight into X-ray diffraction and the work of X-ray crystallographers.

Diffraction pattern from a vertical wire



For all four activities described above, a school or a Science Centre or a Science Club can acquire a Facilitator’s Crystallography Kit (FCK) that contains microscale learner kits for individual or group work, a specially prepared Crystallography Chemicals Kit (CCK), a Facilitator’s Guide and an Activity Booklet.

The teacher/facilitator maintains the hand-held microscope and green laser pointer, as well as certain other resources that are also accommodated in the kit shown alongside. The FCK is suitable for up to 60 learners working in groups, and can be used several times with groups of this size provided that the chemicals are well-managed until replenishment is required. The microscale kits are low-cost, high safety and have minimal environmental impact. No laboratory is needed! Furthermore, they are easy and convenient to use making them the ideal tools for teaching and learning about the Wonderful World of Crystals.


For more information on - and pricing of - the RADMASTE Crystallography Kits, please visit www.microsci.org.za to download a price list with the most up-to-date prices for all RADMASTE products. There is also a PDF brochure on the same site which describes the FCK and shows prices for the different components that make up the facilitator's kit.







RADMASTE Microscience, 2015. All rights reserved.