Like many other children, I grew single crystal salt crystals in a salt solution. This is a common and fun experiment for children.

However, with both this experiment, and with flux growth methods for single crystals in general, is there a limit on the size of the grown crystal?

That is, if I was to keep dumping in more salt so as to replenish the solute, would the crystal grow forever? And if not, what limits the size of these crystals?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In theory, there are no limitations. In reality as the single crystal gets bigger, it will a) accumulate more and more defects and b) new nucleation centers will occur producing polycrystalline assembly of several phases. This happens statistically as the volume of mother liquor needs to get larger, therefore there will be more concentration fluctuations, not to mention impurities and temperature gradient from the contact with the external system. Crystal growth in gas phase is somewhat different, but similar principles are applied there too. $\endgroup$
    – andselisk
    Oct 11, 2017 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ What are the sources of the defects in this system, just impurities? additionally, why do the new nucleation centers necessitate a separate phase? $\endgroup$
    – User2341
    Oct 11, 2017 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I understand crystal defects. But how does that limit the size of the crystal? I can guess at how that would cause the formation of a separate phase. $\endgroup$
    – User2341
    Oct 11, 2017 at 17:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Crystals can get quite large, as seen at ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/crystal-giants/shea-text . It just takes a steady source of material and patience... a few thousand years, in this case. $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2017 at 4:50


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