The Maritzburg College team was the proud winners
of the School of Chemistry and Physics’ crystal
growing competition.

In an effort to encourage chemical curiosity among school pupils and attract them to the possibilities of the field as a choice of future study, UKZN’s School of Chemistry and Physics organised a crystal growing competition for local schools, in conjunction with the Royal Society of Chemistry.

‘We wanted to have some fun with crystals and at the same time instill a love of chemistry in young minds,’ said Professor Ross Robinson, Academic Leader of Research in the Pietermaritzburg Chemistry Department.

Schools which registered – including Maritzburg College, Epworth, Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High, Alexandra High and Carter High – were sent crystal growing kits and six weeks later exhibited their results at the University. 

While the judges were deciding which school had produced the best crystal, the participants spent the morning in the Chemistry Department viewing the high-tech instrumentation within the chemistry laboratories and gaining an insight into the fascinating variety of research projects being undertaken by postgraduate students and staff. 

Professor Orde Munro demonstrated how X-ray diffraction could be used to determine the shape and identity of crystals and how he uses this in his on-going research into anti-cancer drugs.

Their crash course in chemistry was rounded off with a “Chemistry Magic Show” in the afternoon, which featured a kaleidoscope of colours, smells, and bangs.

Maritzburg College’s crystal was deemed the most structurally impressive and pure, winning the School an electronic weather station that not only measures rainfall but also wind direction, humidity and atmospheric pressure.

Robinson, who co-ordinated the event, said:  ‘We hope to grow the competition next year and have more schools competing.’  He said there was a good possibility that the local winners could compete in an international crystal growing competition in future.