Micro Life Zone
Asked by novastreamer12 to Anissa, Eleanor, Mel, Mia, Sam on 30 Aug 2013. This question was also asked by jacob.
Hy novastreamer12 that’s a great question. I could look this up and write down a nice explanation for you, but I think it’s probably best to leave this to the expert crystallographer of our scientific group… Eleanor you are up my dear!
Hello Novastreamer! (and cheers Sam!)
Thanks for your crystal questions during chat!
So, there a few ways crystals can form, but they all have the same two stages: ‘nucleation’ and ‘growth’.
Nucleation is the very first little signs of molecules starting to group together. It’s also sometimes called ‘seeds’, because it’s like a seed that grows a crystal!
An example is when a bit of dust interacts with very cold water high up in the atmosphere, it forms a little tiny surface that water molecules can start to cling to! As more and more molecules start to stick together in neat patterns, (this is the ‘growth’ bit) they form snowflakes, water crystals high up in the sky!!
Now, crystals forming under pressure are a bit different! For starters, they can take millions (even billions!) of years to grow! But they start with the same idea of a ‘seed’ that other molecules can start to gather around. In diamonds, you’ll have a tiny amount of carbon atoms that arrange into a pyramid shaped ‘grid’ or ‘lattice’, and then with all that energy from the heat and pressure of the Earth, other carbon atoms can start to break apart from their surroundings and join onto the little seed.
The diamond starts to grow, but it’ll take a very veeery long time to get very big!
I hope that helps! : )
Novastreamer12 I hope you don’t mind, I’m going to jump in on this question and ask Elanor about protein crystals. Elanor do protein crystals form in a similar way? 🙂
I think this has been covered really well above!!
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