We’d Climb This Mountain of Sugar Crystals
Have you ever wondered how those delicate sugar crystals form in your favorite sweet treats? Sugar crystals are actually a type of solid called a crystal lattice. When sugar crystals form, the molecules of sugar arrange themselves in a repeating pattern, called a lattice. This lattice is made up of tiny, identical units called “unit cells.” Each unit cell is made up of molecules of sugar arranged in a specific way. The sugar molecules in a unit cell are held together by weak chemical bonds called van der Waals forces. When a solution of sugar and water is cooled, the sugar molecules start to arrange themselves into a crystal lattice. As more and more sugar molecules join the lattice, the crystal grows larger and larger. The size and shape of the sugar crystals depends on how fast the solution cools. If the solution cools slowly, the sugar crystals will have more time to grow, resulting in larger crystals. If the solution cools quickly, the sugar crystals will be smaller (Exploratorium).