Salt crystallization filmed at atomic level

Japanese scientists have captured rare atomic-level footage of salt forming into crystals using a leading-edge electron microscope.

A group led by Project Professor Nakamura Eiichi at the University of Tokyo's School of Science took the video. They say it is the first-ever atomic resolution video of salt crystals forming in real time.

Crystallization is a process in which atoms or molecules are highly organized to form a solid structure called a crystal. Salt, sugar and other substances are known to crystallize.

To film the crystallization of salt, the scientists first dipped carbon nanotubes in salt water and placed them in a vacuum.

After a slight vibration was applied, molecules of sodium chloride began to emerge near the tip of a carbon nanotube and formed a crystal nucleus in about 5 seconds.

The scientists say the salt crystals stayed in the shape of a cuboid even after growing bigger, and that the results were the same even after repeated experiments.

Professor Nakamura said that it was interesting to see that the salt crystal shapes remained similar from the time of initial formation.

He added that he hopes to see the crystallization of other substances take place.