Crystals

We grow and study all kinds of crystals! You can learn a bit more about crystals here.

Crystals

What is a Crystal?

What makes something a crystal? To understand what a crystal is, we have to look inside the material, at the atoms, molecules, or ions that make it up.

A crystal is a solid material whose atoms are arranged in an ordered, repeating pattern. This pattern repeats throughout the crystal in all directions. If a material does not have this repeated structure, then it is not a crystal, even if it looks like one on the outside.

Fancy making your own model crystal? All you need is some paper, scissors, and glue - find out more here.

Resources

You can learn more about crystals from our handy factsheets, written separately for primary school (KS1&2) and secondary school (KS3+) levels of physics knowledge. We also have a fun activity that you can do at home where you can build your own model crystal out of 3D unit cell shapes.

You can find all these resources here:

Iron Selenide

One particular crystal we are working on right now is iron selenide. This crystal has some very special properties, namely that if you cool this crystal down to a very low temperature of about 9K (or -264°C) it becomes superconducting.

A superconductor is a material that has zero electrical resistance when a current is passed through it. However no material is known to have this property at room temperature - this only occurs once the material has been cooled to below a certain temperature. Superconductors also have the amazing property of being able to levitate above a magnet.

You can read more about iron selenide as a superconductor here.

We recently took over a community shop in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, as part of the ATOM science festival, and filled it with a model of iron selenide. You can watch the model grow here:

Videos

You can also find out more about crystals, what they are, and what we do with them, from our intro to crystals videos. Explore the sections below, or find them all on our YouTube channel.

Sodium Acetate Trihydrate

Watch crystallisation happen before your eyes with sodium acetate trihydrate! There's a good reason this stuff is also known as hot ice...

Copper Sulphate

This one is all about copper sulphate, a beautiful blue crystal that has some amazing and unexpected properties.

Superconductors

Did you know crystals can be superconductors? Let's see what they can do...

Order and Growth

Why do crystals come in such spectacular shapes? Well, it's got something to do with how they grow...

Studying Structures

How do we find out what goes on inside a crystal? Join us on a trip to ISIS to find out...

Quartz and all

Check out some of the quartz samples from Oxford University's Museum of Natural History, and join us in discovering the difference between a lump of quartz and an array of amethyst crystals.