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Melting and Recrystallizing “Yellow Snow” (Sulfur Experiment)

Melting and Recrystallizing “Yellow Snow” (Sulfur Experiment)

(Note: if you are not an adult, please be sure to perform this experiment with adult supervision. Conduct experiment in a well-ventilated area.)

What you’ll need:

  • Sulfur lump
  • Metal spoon
  • Stovetop or lighter
  • Cup of water

Using the back of a spoon, crush a small amount of the sulfur into a fine powder. Place the powdered sulfur in the spoon and heat over an open flame. A Bunsen burner flame is ideal, but a stovetop or lighter can be used as well. Heat consistently but carefully until the sulfur melts into a blood red liquid. If the sulfur begins to burn, extinguish it in the cup of water. When all the sulfur has melted, remove it from the heat. As the sulfur begins to cool down, crystals will begin to form in the spoon.

When minerals crystallize out of a melt, they often form regular three-dimensional polygons according to their chemical structure. The individual molecules preferentially bond to each other in such a way as to form these shapes – but they need the appropriate space to do it.

Sulfur crystals can take a variety of shapes depending on how the liquid sulfur freezes. Try this experiment a few times using different cooling methods and record your findings. What happens if you pour the liquid sulfur straight into water? What if you pour into white snow? How does the cooling method affect the shape and size of the crystals?

Share the results or pictures from your experiments with us on Facebook. We'd love to hear about your findings. Happy holidays!

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