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water glass

crystal garden
Crystal garden grown using water glass
Image credit: S. Horbury

An aqueous solution of sodium silicate (Na2SiO3) – a concentrated, syrupy alkaline – made by fusing sodium carbonate with silica. It is used to preserve eggs, as a cement, in ore flotation, and for water- and fire-proofing.

Water glass can also be used to grow "crystal gardens." Crystals of various colored metal salts, such as copper sulfate, iron sulfate, and iron chloride are added to a jar containing a 50% solution of water glass. The corresponding metal silicates are formed as structures that resemble alien plants.

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