Transformation of a supersaturated solution into solid crystals

It just takes one small nudge to spark the transformation of a seemingly stable liquid into a solid. The liquid – a supersaturated solution of sodium acetate – consists of water with more dissolved sodium acetate salt than can be stably sustained. Drop in a salt crystal and provide the kick needed to start the transformation into the more thermodynamically favourable solid state.

But if the solid state is more thermodynamically stable, why does it exist as a liquid at all? It’s to do with scale: the solution is only better off as a solid at the macroscopic scale – the scale of the whole solution. On a microscopic scale, the individual crystals are not thermodynamically favourable, so until you start it off with a salt crystal (which is, relatively, a huge disturbance), the transformation won’t begin.

Watch the full ‘Tales from the Prep Room’ film for more explanation, extra footage, and the curious problem we encountered when filming.


You found me

Today has been one of those days. And by ‘one of those days’ I mean Monday. I haven’t been posting traditional blog entries at a favorable frequency the past few weeks because I am so busy with my classes, med school applications, research, dealing with stressful people, etc. 

Yet amongst all this sudden onset of stress, my doctor wants to start to ween me off of my anxiety medications. I sort of looked at her like she was crazy and felt the need to cling to my prescriptions for dear life, but the more I thought about it, maybe I am ready to (slowly but surely) stop relying on them to keep me calm and get me through the day without an anxiety attack. I will still always have my panic disorder—I’m not “cured”—but over the past few months I’ve been especially dedicated to finding ways to deal with it and not break down over anything and everything. 

It hasn’t gone smoothly or been easy, but I’m still trying.