two crystalsCrystals grown by Windsor high schoolers placed in the top 10 in a national competition.

Chemists help local crystal competitors

Chemistry professor Nick Vukotic and experiential learning specialist Michelle Bondy in the Faculty of Science worked with Windsor-Essex high schools to prepare students for the 2021 Chemical Institute of Canada’s National Crystal Growing Competition.

“It is difficult to grow a really good crystal — it takes time, and the students need to have patience and a bit of luck to grow a perfect single crystal,” says Dr. Vukotic.

This year, students from seven high schools took part in the UWindsor-judged local competition. The competitors each created a saturated solution of aluminum sulphate, placed a string in the jar and waited for the crystals to develop.

“You leave them to grow for a month with the goal of making the most perfect defect-free single crystal that will be judged on crystal quality, shape, and overall perfection,” says Vukotic.

A committee from his research group, which grows crystals in the lab on a regular basis, judged the locally made crystals. Proto Manufacturing, a Windsor company that provides portable and laboratory x-ray diffraction systems and services, sponsored book prizes for the top six finalists.

The top two finalists went on to compete nationally. Meern Albert from Catholic Central High School placed fifth for best overall crystal. Alexia Barbu from Riverside Secondary School placed ninth for best quality crystal.

“During COVID time, when there was limited availability of extracurricular activities, this competition gave some of my chem students a great opportunity to do something exciting and fun,” says Maria Sawicki, science department head at Catholic Central High School.

Vukotic says it was fun to be part of the event and he looks forward to doing it again.

“It is a great way to get students involved in chemistry and excited about science in general.”