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rock candyrecipe: Rock Candy
When you make rock candy, you can see the shape of sugar crystals on a giant scale. The key is giving them lots of time (about 7 days) to grow. As the water evaporates, sugar crystals form on the string or stick, and the shapes that they form reflect the shape of individual sugar crystals.

Learn more about sugar and crystals.

Recipe Conversions

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Table sugar crystals, magnified 100 times Rock candy crystals, magnified 250 times
Notice that the shapes of the rock candy crystals are very similar to those of the sugar crystals. That’s because rock candy is made up of many sugar crystals that have grown together.
(Images courtesy of FEI Company)

CAUTION
When making candy, the syrup gets very hot. Kids, don’t try this without the help of an adult!

 

 

 

   
What Do I Need? .
4 cups sugar




2 cups water
a small saucepan
 a wooden spoon
 a candy thermometer
• a small, clean glass jar
• a measuring cup
• cotton string
• a weight to hang on the string (such as a screw or galvanized washer)
• waxed paper
• a pencil (to suspend the string in the jar)
 
What Do I Do?

Did You Know?
Rock candy is one of the oldest and purest forms of candy. It was originally used by pharmacists to make medicines for many kinds of illnesses.

1. Heat the water in the saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.

 

2. Completely dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, stirring continuously with the wooden spoon until the solution grows clear and it reaches a rolling boil.

 

3. Remove the solution from the heat, and then carefully pour it into the jar. Cover the jar with a small piece of waxed paper.

   

4. Tie the weight to one end of the string, and then tie the other end to the middle of the pencil. The string should be about two-thirds as long as the jar is deep. Dip the string into the sugar solution, remove it, lay it on a piece of waxed paper, straighten it out, and let it dry for a few days.

Why does the string need to be soaked and then dried?

 
   

5. Gently suspend the prepared string in the solution and let sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for several days. You can check each day to see how much your crystals have grown. It’s tempting, but don’t touch the jar until the experiment is finished—it usually takes about seven days.

What makes the crystals grow?

 

6. At the end of the week, the crystals on your string should be clearly defined, with sharp right angles and smooth faces of various sizes. In the field of crystallography, these are called monoclinic crystals. Their shape is determined by the way the individual sugar molecules fit together, which is similar to the way the shape of a pile of oranges is determined by the shape of the individual oranges and the way they stack together.

 
 
   
What Else Can I Try? .

• Try adding food coloring or flavoring to your sugar syrup before making the rock candy.

 

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