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SPELEOTHEMS. Does the temperature affect the growth of dripping crystals?


Academic year: 2021

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Does the temperature affect the growth of dripping crystals?


Table of Contents

Project abstract …... pg.3 Question/Problem & Hypothesis……… pg.4 Background Research ……….. pg.4 Experiment Materials……….. pg.8 Experiment Procedures……….. pg.9 Experiment Variables ………. pg.10 Data Table………….. ………. pg.10 Analysis Graphs/Charts……….. pg.13 Analysis………. ……….……….. pg19 Conclusion…………. ……….. pg 23 Biblical Principle ……….. pg 24 SLE ……… pg 25 Appendix (photographs etc)………….……….. pg 26 Work Cited.………pg 30




The experiment was performed to determine from epsom salt, baking soda, washing soda, pancake mix, and plaster of paris will grow the most crystals. Will the temperature of the room affect the growth? Two sets of each material was placed in two rooms with different temperatures. The data collected were the level of mixture of each jar, the length and characteristics of the crystals, and the temperature and humidity of each room. Data collected in Trial I was inaccurate due to error. Trial II and Trial III had the same result, crystals grew more in a hotter room. The hypothesis that baking soda will grow the most crystals was not supported by the data gathered. Different materials produced different kinds of crystals.



If I use different materials such as epsom salt, baking soda, washing soda, pancake mix, and plaster of paris to grow speleothem, which material will grow the most? Does room temperature affect the growth of the speleothem?

If I use epsom salt, baking soda, washing soda, pancake mix, and plaster of paris to grow speleothem, then I predict that baking soda will grow the most.


Caves act as a place where natural resources like minerals are carried by water, and some result in chemical deposition such as speleothems. The process of carrying it in through the cave system is by fluvial. Speleothems come from a Greek word “spelaion” meaning cave, and “thema”, meaning deposit (“What are Speleothems?”). Most of the calcium deposits form a crystal from mineral calcite. Speleothems are calcium that goes into ceilings, floors, and walls of the cave which make unique formations. Common formations are dripstones like stalactites, stalagmites, straws, columns, and pillars. Another major formations are flowstones some examples are shawls and draperies, another formations are pore deposits some examples are rimstone, dogtooth spar, cave pearls and lily pads or shelf stone (“Caves Formation”).

Speleothems grow from drip water from the rain and when snow melts that soak into the limestone, water mixes with the gases and minerals in the air and soil. Calcite is left behind when the water evaporates. Caves teach us about climate by stalactite and stalagmites which are called speleothems. These speleothems can help record climate


as water keeps dripping into the cave. It will determine the growth of the speleothem that will grow, these layers can tell the precipitation and drought in the area. Information about climate can be determined by looking how much oxygen speleothems contain (“How Can Caves Teach Us”).

The most common of speleothems are stalactites and stalagmites, which form various minerals from water which is slowly dripping. Stalactites are formed from the deposition of minerals from the drop of water on the top of the cavern. Stalactites are first formed as a straw because it is blocked by calcite. Stalagmites are thicker, usually grow up on the bottom of the cave and use the same water source from stalactites. Not every stalactite has a stalagmite form and not every stalagmite has a stalactite form. However, when both are present and will meet will form a column. Calcite is one of the minerals which make stalagmite and stalactites. Some minerals inside are opal, chalcedony, limonite, and some sulfides. Mineral goes into stalagmites by water collecting the minerals inside rocks. When the water drips down, the minerals are still in the rocks which make the stalagmites have minerals inside (Editors of Britannica of Encyclopedia, 2018).

Mineral is a natural, nonliving solid with a definite chemical structure (Foresman c32). The heat and pressure inside the earth can change the place of the atoms inside the mineral. Human bodies need essential minerals to have a proper diet. Minerals help bones, muscles, heart and brain to work. These minerals are splitted into major important minerals which are microminerals and macrominerals. Macrominerals have sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sulfur.


Microminerals are iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium, and molybdenum (Healthwise staff, 2019).

Everybody uses minerals everyday. Some minerals are halite, calcite, corundum, and graphite. Mineral is a solid inorganic substance. There are different definitions for minerals, some are naturally occurring, inorganic, solid, definite chemical composition, and ordered internal structure. Minerals also have a nutritional meaning, meaning inorganic substances which organisms need to repair the tissue, grow, and other body processes. In the United States of America, the most used mineral is crushed stone for the use of concrete, to make cement, and make nails and wires this is mostly used for construction with estimation of 1,600 million metric tons (King, 2020). Some physical properties of minerals are color, streak, hardness, luster and diaphaneity. The importance of physical properties is useful in identifying minerals. For example, the mineral talc is used as a foot powder when ground into powder because the softness and not causing an abrasion. The mineral halite is used to flavor food when crushed for salty taste. The mineral gold is used for jewelry because of the easiest to shape with a bright yellow color.

Calcite is the most found mineral in stalagmites and stalactites. Calcite is named after an ancient name, named Gaius Plinius. Some various colors of calcite are white, yellow, red, orange, blue, green, brown and gray. The formula of calcite is CaCO3 (“Calcite”). Calcite has many forms and colors and is common to find and usually widespread. The hardness of calcite is at 3 for the Mohs scale. Calcite is a natural


calcium carbonate. Calcite is not the only form that exists in stalagmites and stalactites, but also exists in flowstone and globular.

Calcite is formed like rhomb-shaped prisms when broken. The clearest form is called Iceland Spar. Calcite is easy to dissolve in rainwater. Calcite is identified with the react with acid and fizz. The specific gravity is 2.71. A scientist would say a mineral is naturally occurring, inorganic and atoms are arranged in an ordered fashion. Rocks are layers that are clumped up by different kinds of minerals. To understand the planet we have to understand minerals. Minerals are formed by earth processes, like melting, weathering, or cooking. The minerals form by what element is available. Elements will be arranged to be in a stable pattern. Some minerals are stable to high temperature and high pressure, some are stable to low temperature and low pressure. Minerals can be identified through the color, luster, hardness cleavage and fracture, specific gravity steak, crystal habits, native elements, sulfides and friends, oxides and friends, composition chemical formula, or silicates (Lewis p320). A microcrystalline type of Calcite in globular form is common in certain regions. This calcite forms from precipitating water with high content of calcium inside caverns or on limestone cliffs. Water traps in organic matter such as leaves, twigs, and moss. These growths constantly accumulate, forming layers (“The Mineral Calcite”).

Calcite is the major mineral in Indiana state stone. Dolostone that contains approximately 50 percent of the mineral dolomite [CaMg(CO3)2] is commonly associated with calcite. Calcite can form with the precipitation of rich water. As processes, the water decreases (Shaffer, 2020).


Lechuguilla Cave, sometimes called the “Jewel of the Underground”, was discovered in 1986 (Koontz p24). The cave is the deepest cave in the United States of America. Geologists explored the cave and discovered that unlike most caves, the cave built itself from the bottom up rather than top down. The largest stalactite is located in Jeita Cavern, Lebanon called the White Chamber, hanging 2.8 meters from the ceiling (Alfarra, 2016). The largest column 61.5 meters is located at Tham Sao Hin, Thailand (Bunell, 2019).


Materials List

● 1 - roll of 4-ply/85 grams Lily Cotton yarn

● 4 cups (1000 ml) Arm and Hammer washing soda ● 4 cups (1000 ml) Arm and Hammer Pure baking soda ● 4 cups (1000 ml) Epsoak pure epsom

● 4 cups (1000 ml) DAP Plaster of Paris

● 4 cups (1000 ml) Traders Joe’s Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle mix ● 20 - 16 ounce Ball Smooth Jars

● 20 - paper clips ● 1 - measuring cup ● 4 - spoons

● 1 - ruler


● hot tap water

● 2 - Acurite temperature and humidity monitor ● 10 - 6 ½ inches Dixie disposable paper plates


1. Heat the water to boil.

2. Label the two jars A and B using a Sharpie marker. 3. Pour 250 ml of hot water in each jar.

4. Slowly stir one cup of Epsoak pure epsom in each jar, making sure it completely dissolves.

5. Cut 2 pieces of yarn to make a 24 inches long string. 6. Tie the paper clips on either end of the string.

7. Soak the string into the mixture, making sure it is completely saturated.

8. Bridge the string between the two jars, both ends should submerge in each jar and the middle of the string is lower than the solution level in each jar.

9. Place the disposal paper between the A and B jars about 10 inches apart.

10.Repeat steps no. 2 to no. 7 and use the different materials such as baking soda, plaster of paris, pancake and waffle mix, and washing soda.

11. Label the pair of jars with the material used.

12. Assemble two sets of the different solutions using different materials. Place the first set in a hot room. Place the second set in a cold room.


14.Record the temperature of each room everyday at 7am and 7pm. 15.Measure the level of water in each everyday.

16.Make observations of the crystal formations.

Trial II added procedures:

1. Boil the water every after two jars are filled with the water.

2. Place the disposal paper between the A and B jars about 8 inches apart instead of 10 inches.

3. Observe the crystals formation for one week.


1) DEPENDENT/RESPONDING - growth of speleothems

2) INDEPENDENT/MANIPULATED - materials use to make speleothems

3) CONSTANTS - water type, jar and string



Materials Location Size Description/Clarity Baking


string and mouth of the jars (manipulated)

surface of mixture

majority is small

started small, then large

Cave popcorn like crystals, white brittle, lily pads like crystals, white delicate


Trial II and TRIAL III Washing


surface of mixture and above undissolve washing soda

majority is large

Draperies like crystals; cloudy hard

Epsom Salt

String (manipulated) String in the mixture

Surface of water and bottom of jars


Majority is large Mostly medium to large

Stalactite like crystals; clear delicate

Calcite rafts like crystals; clear delicate


Mix No crystals formations not observed not observed Plaster of

Paris No crystals formations not observed not observed

Materials Location Size Description/Clarity

Baking soda

string and mouth of the jars

surface of mixture

majority is small to medium

started small, then large

Cave popcorn like crystals, white brittle

lily pads like crystals; white delicate

Washing Soda

surface of mixture and above undissolve washing soda

majority is large

Draperies like crystals; cloudy hard


Different kinds of materials were chosen to determine which one will grow Speleothem most. Each material produced different types of crystals. As indicated in the Trial I, epsom salt and baking soda were manipulated. During the experiment an error occurred. As observed, all the strings were dry out. According to background research, speleothems are formed by minerals carried by water through a fluvial process. After five days, still no crystal formation was observed in the strings. Instead, for baking soda, small crystals were observed on the surface of the mixture. In the epsom salt, crystals were observed in the string submerged in the mixture. In washing soda, crystals were observed in the mixture itself, none in string. Experiment was manipulated by adding 0.5 milliliters of the mixture on each side of the string every other day. The manipulations helped in forming crystals in the epsom salt and baking soda. Speleothems have different formations which had formed by baking soda, epsom salt and washing soda. Plaster of paris did not form any crystals since the mixture hardened Epsom



String in the mixture

Surface of water and bottom of jars

Medium Majority is large Mostly small to medium

Stalactite and column like crystals; clear delicate

Calcite rafts like crystal ; clear delicate


Mix No crystals formations not observed

not observed Plaster of


in 30 minutes. Which goes the same with pancake mix because the mixture becomes battery. In the Trial II, the crystal formations of the materials were the same but not manipulated. Instead of placing jar A and jar B 10 inches apart, it was placed 8 inches apart. When jars were placed 10 inches apart, the height of the string raised which was not positioned below the height of the mixture resulted in dried out string and no dripping. In Trial III, the materials produced the same type of crystals, same location, size and characteristics.


Average Temperature and Humidity in Hot room: 26 degree Celsius and 36 Average Temperature and Humidity in Cold room: 22 degree Celsius and 49


Trial II

Average Temperature and Humidity in Hot room: 24 degree Celsius and 38 Average Temperature and Humidity in Cold room: 22 degree Celsius and 48



Average Temperature and Humidity of Hot Room: 24 degree Celsius and 39 Average Temperature and Humidity of Cold Room: 22 degree Celsius and 50


These graphs show the level of mixture of each material in jar A and Jar B. Two sets of each material were prepared. One set was placed in a hot room and the other set was placed in a cold room. In Trial I, the level of mixture was measured every other day for 14 days. In Trial II and Trial III, the level of mixture was measured everyday for 7 days. The reason for this change was 14 days was too long and there was no huge difference in the level of mixture. During preparation of all materials, the epsom salt dissolved easily, thus, in general the epsom salt mixture has the highest level of mixture. Followed by washing soda and baking soda which dissolved easily too. The washing soda’s mixture level mostly dropped on the fourth and fifth day of the experiment. This is the day where the crystal formed most.The crystals were formed in the mixture as the water slowly evaporates leaving the crystal to form. The crystal


needed more space that resulted for the jars to crack. The baking soda’s level of mixture started low. The baking soda did not dissolve a lot in hot water, resulting in evaporation fast and the only mixture that returned to its original state. There is no evidence of the level of mixture for plaster and paris and pancake mix because these materials are supposed to be made of something hard and thick.


These bar graphs show the measurement of the final size of the crystal from each material used. In the Trial I, baking soda and epsom salt were manipulated due to no crystal formation being formed, not until five days. The size of the crystals of epsom salt and baking soda were not reliable because it was manipulated due to an error. According to the article by Gillespie, the factors affecting the growth of crystals are the amount of dissolved material, evaporation, pressure and temperature. The jars in the hot room formed bigger sizes of crystals compared to the cold room. When the temperature increases the humidity decreases which results in faster evaporation. If the water evaporates from the mixture quickly, the crystal will form immediately. In the baking soda the hot grew the longer than the cold in Trial II and Trial III except for Trial I because of manipulation due to error. The evaporation in the hot room made it grow longer than the cold room. The baking soda produced a popcorn crystal forming around the string with the longest length for hot room is 1.2 centimeter and 0.6 centimeter for cold room. In washing soda the hot room was the longest length. Crystals formed inside the jar but not on the string. The crystals were formed in the mixture as the water slowly evaporated leaving the crystal to form. The longest is 3 centimeters in the hot room and 2.8 centimeters in the cold room. The epsom salt on the other hand was the longest in the hot room in all trials and formed like a stalactite and stalagmite and sooner to a column. The Epsom crystal in the hot room is 8 centimeters and 4.5 centimeters in the cold room. All of these materials’s crystals grew longer in the hot room except for the baking soda Trial I, the result was manipulated due to error.



As stated in the hypothesis, if epsom salt, baking soda, washing soda, pancake mix, and plaster of paris were used to grow speleothem, the prediction that baking soda will grow the most was not supported.

The data that were collected did not support the hypothesis. Epsom salt, baking soda and washing soda produce different kinds of crystals, which is the same with the speleothem, the cave formations will depend on how the water drips, how the water leaks through the holes or cracks in the cave and how the water is concentrated from minerals.

In Trial I, the data gathered were not reliable since it was manipulated due to error. First, the water was not as hot as should, resulting in all of the materials not condensed at the start of the project. This resulted in the crystals not to grow as much as normal. Second, the strings dried out due to the placement of jar A and jar B. The manipulation was done by adding 0.5 milliliters of the mixture in each side of the string. Lastly, the materials produced different kinds of crystals. In Trial II and III, the first and second errors were amended by re-boiling the water every two jars being filled with water and material was added. Jar A and jar B were placed 8 inches apart instead of 10 inches apart to make a dip below the height of the mixture, thus dripping occurs.

In Trial II and Trial III crystals were formed without manipulation. Materials were dissolved more and easily. Crystal formations were observed as early as 2 hours after the set up. Epsom salt grew the fastest, forming stalactite and stalagmite in the string. Baking soda produced popcorn crystals in the string. Washing soda had a draperies


crystals that formed not on the string but inside the jar. Further research was done to find out what is in the materials that produced crystals. Baking soda is a sodium bicarbonate which is a natural mineral also called Nahcolite. Washing soda is sodium carbonate, and is one of the largest volume mineral products in the inorganic chemical industry. Epsom salt has magnesium sulfate, which is obtained from the mineral epsomite. These materials have one in common, which is the component of a mineral. Speleothems are formed from the deposition of minerals from the drop of water on the top of the cavern.

After the experiment, there were some questions. What if different types of water were used during the experiment such as distilled, purified or alkaline water, will the form and length of the crystals have different results? Another question was, does it matter if crystals will grow in light or dark rooms during the experiment?


“The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen”. - Job 38:30

This Bible verse relates to the experiment because in the experiment the materials that were used were added with water to make a mixture. When water evaporates from string or jar, cave formation is observed like frozen crystals. Like speleothems the water collects many minerals, then seeps through the cracks of the caves to create different kinds of cave formations. Some examples of these are stalactite, stalagmite, column, draperies, popcorn-like, lily pads and calcite rafts which


were produced during the experiment. Water and minerals play an important role in the formation of crystals to enable people to appreciate the history and beauty of the crystals.


A1 - Gain a sound education that prepares them for life challenges.

This SLE relates to the experiment I did, for the reason that I considered the project as a challenge because it was my first time doing a science fair project. I used what I had learned in taking notes to have a good research about the topic. Good research is important to fully understand not only the topic but the process too. I considered that I was prepared to do the procedures on completing the project. I succeeded and the work paid off. Surely, this experience will help me in future works.


STALACTITE(epsom salt)


CALCITE RAFTS(epsom salt)


Work Cited

Alfarra, Jehan. “Discover Jeita Grotto, Lebanon.” Middleeastmonitor.com. Discover the Middle East, Videos and Photos. August 14, 2016. Accessed 22 Aug. 2020. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160814-jeita-grotto/

Bunnel, Dave. “The World Largest Cave Formations.” Goodearthgraphics.com . N.P. 26 March 2019. Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.


“Calcite.” Mindat.org . Hudson Institute Mineralogy. n.d. 2020 Accessed 18 Jun. 2020. https://www.mindat.org/min-859.html

“Cave Formations (Speleothems).” Jenolan caves.org.au . Blue Mountains. 2012. Accessed 30 Jun. 2020.

https://www.jenolancaves.org.au/about/limestone-cave-geology/cave- formations-speleothems/

“Caves with the Longest Stalactite.” Showcaves.com . N.P. n.d. Accessed 1 Jul. 2020. https://www.showcaves.com/english/explain/Statistics/Stalactites.html

Gillespie, Claire. “How Does Temp Affect the Growth Rate of Crystals?” Sciencing.com N.P. 26 April 2018. Accessed 25 October 2020.


Foresman, Scott. Science . Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc. 2000

Healthwise Staff. “Minerals: Their Functions and Sources.” Uofmhealth.org. Healthwise Inc.21Aug2019.Accessed30July2020.


Hocking, Martin. “Sodium Carbonate.” Sciencedirect.com. Elsevier B.V. 2020. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/sodium-carbo nate

“How Can Caves Teach Us About Climate?”. Ncei.noaa.gov . National Centers for Environmental Information. 13 June 2016. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.


King, Hobart. “What are Minerals?”. Geology.com. NP. 2020. Accessed 17 June 2020. https://geology.com/minerals/what-is-a-mineral.shtml

“Magnesium Sulfate.” Encyclopedia.com. N.P. Dec. 2020. Accessed 26 November 2020 https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and- maps/magnesium-sulfate-0


Shaffer, Nelson. “Calcite.” Igws.indiana.edu. Indiana University Bloomington. 2020. Accessed 22 Jun. 2020. https://igws.indiana.edu/RocksAndMinerals/Calcite

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Stalactite and Stalagmite.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. March 9, 2018. Accessed 16 June 2020. https://www.britannica.com/science/stalactite

The Jerusalem Bible: Popular Edition. Jones, Alexander. Doubleday. 4 July 1996.

“The Mineral Calcite.” Minerals.net . Herschel. 2020 Accessed 20 Jun. 2020. https://www.minerals.net/mineral/calcite.aspx

“What are Speleothems?” Wonderopolis.org . National Center for Families Learning 2020. Accessed 15 June 2020.


“What is the difference between a stalactite and stalagmite.” Oceanexplorer.noaa.gov . Office of Ocean Explorer and Research. n.d. Accessed 25 Jun. 2020.



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