Crystal Model Kits for Use in the General Chemistry
Nicholas K. Kildahl and Ladklav H. Berkal
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester. MA 01609
George M. Bodner
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907
Efforts to teach crystal structure concepts have been
linked to the development of models that illustrate the
three-dimensional structure of crystals (1-14). As early as
1813, a commercial set of crystal models was developed by
Frederick Accum to accompany his text (15).
Most of the models described previously are static models,
huilt by the instructor, rather than dynamic models which
the student builds for himself or herself (16). This paper
describes dynamic crystal model kits which were developed
independently a t the Worcester Polytechnic Institute
(WPI) and Purdue University. Laboratory experiments in
which students use these kits to build models have been
extremely successful in providing students with an under-
standing of the three-dimensional structures of the common
cuhic unit cells as well as hexagonal and cubic closest pack-
ing of spheres.
The WPI Kit
The crystal model kit developed a t WPI consists of a
Plexiglas cubical cahinet with five equally-spaced Plexi-
glas shelves, a close-packing shelf cut with grooves, and a Figure 1. A photographof the WPI kit
collection of colored plastic spheres which are used to repre-
sent atoms. The particular kit shown in Figure 1is about 25
cm on an edge, but we have huilt a model more than 3 times
larger than this for use in lecture demonstrations.
The most valuable feature of the WPI design is the clos-
est-packing shelf which can he placed on the top shelf of the
cahinet. This shelf allows the student to build a model of a
hexagonal or cuhic closest packed arrangement of spheres
and a face-centered cubic unit cell a t the same time. By
viewing both the cuhic closest-packed and face-centered cu-
bic structures simultaneously, the student may see the
equivalence of these alternate descriptions of the same
structure. In addition, the middle three shelves are movable
(and removable) to allow for quick and easy illustration of
edge defects and to make it easy to insert balls a t any desired
location in the model.
The Purdue KH
The Purdue model ( l n in Figure 2 uses four long pieces of
threaded rod to maintain the proper spacing between Figure 2. A photographof the small Purdue madel.
shelves. A nut is placed above and below each shelf, and
tightened to hold the shelf in place. One hundred eighty
large models 21.5 cm on a side were originally huilt for use in Structures Illustrated by the Kits
the laboratory (12 models for each of 15 labs), as well as The following crystal structures or structural features are
larger kits for lecture demonstrations. The Purdue kit is readily illustrated with the WPI kits. Those that are not
inexpensive and easy to build because there are no side walls. marked with an asterisk can he demonstrated with the Pur-
The student can reach into the model from any direction, due kits.
making it easier to add and remove balls2 from the shelves.
There is no provision for closest-packing of spheres. *I) Hexagonal closest-packing
'2) Cubic closest-packing
4) Tetrahedral holes
l Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed: N. K. K. and 5) Simple cubic unit cells and ionic structures based on this unit
L. H. B. cell, such as cesium chloride.
62 Journal of Chemical Education
6) Body-centered cubic unit cells Literature Cited
I ) Face-centered cubic unit c e l l s , and the following ionic or eova- (1) Stillwell. C. W., J. CHBM.EDUC.,13, 415, 469, 521, and 566 11936). and J. CHEM.
lent structures based on this unit cell EoUC.. l4.34and 131 (1937).
a) Rock salt 12) Sesttergaod, A , J. CHeM EDUC.,14.140 (19371.
(31 Soymour.K. M.,J. CHEM.EDUC.,15,192l1938).
b ) Z i n c blende (41 Hauser, E.A.,J.CHEM. EDIIC., 18,164 (19411.
C) Fluorite 15) Westbrmk, J. H.,and DeVries.R.C., J.C~~M.EDUC.,34,220(1957).
d ) Antifluorite (6) Kenney. M.W., J. CHEM.E ~ ~ c . , 3 5 , 5 l195sl.
e) Diamond ,
(7) Komuro. Y., and Sonc. K.. J . CHeM. E ~ u c . 38.580 (1961).
(8) Gehman, W.G.,J.CHEM. EDuc.,40,51(1963).
8) Other structures with cubic unit cells (18) 19) Sims, R. d.,J CHEM. EDUC.. 40.61 11963).
(10) Livingaton, R. L., J.CHEM. E ~ u c . , 4 4 , 3 7 6
1111 Olsen, R.C.. J . CHEM.EDUC., 44,728(1967).
h) Perowkite .
(121 Mann,A. w . . J C ~ M~ o u c . . s 0 , 6 5 3(1973).
C) Mn& 1121 suchow, L.,J.CHEM.EDUC.,S~, 119761.227
d) Spinel and inverse spinels .
ILli Rodner, G. M .Greenhowe, T J., and Robinson, W, R.,J. CHEM, EDUC., 51, 555
9) Point defects 119801.
(151 B?ownc,C.A., J.CHEM. Eouc.,2,829, 1008(1926l.
'10) Edge Dislocation (161 Herrm, J. D.. State-of-the-Art Sympobium: Chemical Education for the So's, J.
The authors will be happy to provide copies of the experi- (171 Bodno?, G. M., Livingston. R. L.. and Robinson, W. R,A b r ~ s e h the 184th ACS
ments that use these models and details for construction of National Meetinp, Kansas City, MO, Lptember 1982.
1181 Mackay. K. M., and Mactay. R.A,. "Introduction to Modern Inogsnie Chemistry."
the kits upon request. 3rd Edition, International Textbook Co., London, 1981,pp. 84-85, p. 235.
The authors would like t o thank Jack Ferraro and Tom
Smith of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Melvin Del- Champion A g a t e C o . , Inc. P.O. B o x 516, D e p a r t m e n t 10, Penns-
linger of Purdue University for their assistance in building b o r o , WV sells solid b l a c k and solid white 3/, in. diameter marbles for
these kits. r o u g h l y 2 . 5 ~a c h .
Volume 63 Number 1 January 1986 63