It’s grow time! The U.S. Crystal Growing Competition is back

Kids and teachers can cultivate big, cool crystals in this annual contest founded by a UB chemist

Release Date: September 15, 2022

Jason Benedict.
“From snow to salt to computers, crystals are all around us and impact many aspects of our daily lives. ”
Jason Benedict, associate professor of chemistry
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Crystals are a vital part of our everyday lives. They fall from the sky as snowflakes. They flavor our food in the form of sugar and salt. They help drive technologies that range from computers to wristwatches.

And this fall, K-12 students and teachers across the country will have the chance to try their hand at growing their own large, single crystals through an annual contest coordinated by professional chemists across the nation.

The 2022 U.S. Crystal Growing Competition begins on Oct. 17. Starting that day, participants will have five weeks to cultivate crystals using materials provided by organizers.

“From snow to salt to computers, crystals are all around us and impact many aspects of our daily lives,” says contest founder Jason Benedict, PhD, associate professor of chemistry in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. “The U.S. Crystal Growing Competition gives parents, educators and children all across the country the opportunity to watch these incredible objects grow right before their eyes, learn about the science of crystals, and win awesome prizes.”

Details about the 2022 U.S. Crystal Growing Competition:

Entries submitted in the “cool crystal” category of a past edition of the U.S. Crystal Growing Competition. Credit: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki.

  • What: The contest challenges participants to grow the biggest, most beautiful crystals they can with aluminum potassium sulfate (alum), a nontoxic chemical used in water purification. There is also a prize category for “coolest crystal.”
  • When: Oct. 1 is the deadline to order alum, the crystal-growing material. Crystal-growing starts on Oct. 17, coinciding with National Chemistry Week, and continues for five weeks.
  • Who: K-12 students and teachers across the U.S. can compete, whether they’re in the classroom or learning at home.
  • How to enter: Visit the U.S. Crystal Growing Competition website for information on how to register for the contest and order alum​, the crystal-growing material. Each 500-gram bottle of alum, enough for five crystals, costs $8, which includes shipping. Later, participants will be asked to mail their crystals to UB, where judging for this year’s competition will take place. 
  • Prizes: Winners choose from cash prizes or fun crystal models.

How to grow a big, sparkly crystal (videos):

The team behind the competition:

The contest’s organizers — known as the Crystallites — include Jason Benedict and Tasha Benedict at UB; Karah Knope, PhD, at Georgetown University; Michael Nippe, PhD, at Texas A&M University; Jeff Rack, PhD, at the University of New Mexico; and Fernando Uribe-Romo, PhD, at the University of Central Florida.

The U.S. Crystal Growing Competition is sponsored by the American Crystallographic Association (which is based in Buffalo); the U.S. National Science Foundation; VWR and Ward’s Science; the UB Department of Chemistry; Georgetown University Department of Chemistry; the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry; the University of Central Florida Department of Chemistry; the University of New Mexico Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering; the Western New York section of the American Chemical Society; Bruker; Krackeler Scientific; Rigaku; and individuals who have made donations.

Media Contact Information

Charlotte Hsu is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email or visit our list of current university media contacts.