How To Make a Model of a Salt Crystal

If you are teaching a science class about how certain atoms coalesce and bond with each other, then you are probably tinkering with the idea of showing them how salt crystals are formed. Salt crystals are fantastic examples on how atoms from different elements and substances bond together. Salt crystals are formed by the bonding of chlorine and sodium atoms. The natural shape is of a crystal cube is composed of tiny, microscopic cubes, in the millions, stuck and bonded together in a solid form. The only problem is that your students will need a microscope to truly appreciate the molecular balance of salt crystals. If you have none, then you can go with the alternative, create a replica of the salt crystal. Here is an easy procedure to do it using common materials.

  • Gather the materials. The first step in the process will entail you to secure the materials needed to create a large replica of the atomic design. As mentioned above, you will be creating tiny cubes comprising chlorine and sodium atoms. These cubes will be connected to each other to form the larger cube, which is the salt crystal. The materials you will use for this will be a handful of toothpicks and a cup full of tiny cubed marshmallows with two distinct colors, one color for chlorine and another for sodium atoms.
  • Make the first cube. To do this, you will need a total of 12 toothpicks. Each toothpick should have a marshmallow representing sodium on one end and a marshmallow representing chlorine on the other end. Fit the marshmallow through the 2 ends of the toothpick. Repeat the same process until all of the toothpicks have marshmallows on their ends. To create the cube, simply connect each end of a toothpick to another end of another toothpick until you form a cube. Bear in mind, though, each toothpick connection should not have any same colored marshmallow sticking with each other. The colors should alternate at each corner of the cube. Once you have the cube made with the joints properly connected and bonded with different colored marshmallows, set it aside and repeat the steps to create more cubes.
  • Make the bigger cube. Once you have the right amount of mini cubes set, the next step will be to assemble all the cubes in order to form a bigger cube that will represent the actual salt crystal. The tiny cubes represent the molecular level of the salt crystal while the bigger cube represents the finished product, the visible salt crystal as seen by the naked eye.
  • Let it dry out. Once the larger cube has been assembled, leave the replica to dry out for a few days. As it dries up, the marshmallows will solidify and harden. At that point, the entire model will become more stable due to the natural cement-like quality of the dried marshmallow.

Now that you have completed your salt crystal replica, you can now use it to teach your students how the atoms bond together and what it forms. Since the cube is stable, you will not have to worry too much about your students taking it apart as they handle it and take a closer look.


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