Science, Tech, Math › Science Tin Hedgehog Experiment Grow Tin Metal Crystals Share Flipboard Email Print The tin hedgehog chemistry experiment produces tin crystals that look like a metallic hedgehog. Thomas Kitchin & Victoria Hurst / Getty Images Science Chemistry Projects & Experiments Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated November 02, 2018 Metal crystals are intricate and beautiful. They are also surprisingly easy to grow. In this experiment, learn how to grow tin crystals that display a spiky appearance that make them look like a metal hedgehog. Tin Hedgehog Materials 0.5 M tin(II) chloride solution (SnCl2)zinc pellettest tube or vial that is larger in diameter than the zinc The rounded hedgehog shape forms around a pellet of zinc, but you can substitute any chunk of zinc metal. Since the reaction occurs at the surface of the metal, you may also use a galvanized (zinc coated) object in place of the zinc pellet. Grow a Tin Hedgehog Pour tin chloride solution into a vial. Don't fill it up all the way because you need room for the zinc.Add the zinc pellet. Set the vial somewhere stable, so it won't get bumped or jarred.Watch the delicate tin crystals grow! You'll see the beginning of a spiky hedgehog shape in the first 15 minutes, with good crystal formation within an hour. Be sure to take pictures or video of the crystals for later, since the tin hedgehog won't last. Eventually, the weight of the fragile crystals or movement of the container will collapse the structure. The bright metallic shine of the crystals will dull over time, plus the solution will turn cloudy. Chemistry of the Reaction In this experiment, tin(II) chloride (SnCl2) reacts with zinc metal (Zn) to form tin metal (Sn) and zinc chloride (ZnCl2) via a substitution or single displacement reaction: SnCl2 + Zn → Sn + ZnCl2 Zinc acts as a reducing agent, giving electrons to the tin chloride so that the tin is free to precipitate. The reaction begins at the surface of the zinc metal. As the tin metal is produced, atoms stack on top of each other in a characteristic form or allotrope of the element. The fern-like shape of the zinc crystals is a characteristic of that metal, so while other types of metal crystals may be grown using this technique, they won't display the same appearance. Grow a Tin Hedgehog Using an Iron Nail Another way to grow tin crystals is using zinc chloride solution and iron. Unless you use a round chunk of iron, you won't get a "hedgehog", but you can get the crystal growth, just the same. Materials iron wire or nail0.1 M tin chloridetest tube Note: You don't need to make up a new tin chloride solution. If you have solution from the reaction with zinc, you can use that. The concentration mainly affects how quickly the crystals grow. Procedure Suspend the iron wire or nail in a test tube containing tin chloride.After about an hour, crystals will start to form. You can examine these with a magnifying glass or by removing the wire and looking at the crystals under a microscope.Allow the iron to remain in the solution overnight for more/larger crystals. Chemical Reaction Once again, this is a simple displacement chemical reaction: Sn2+ + Fe → Sn + Fe2+ Safety and Disposal As always, it's good practice to wear safety goggles and gloves when performing chemistry experiments.When you have finished the experiment, you can rinse the chemicals down the drain with water. Learn More Use a magnifying lens to compare tin crystals grown on the zinc and iron surfaces.You may wish to experiment with how changing the concentration of the zinc chloride solution or temperature of the solution affects the crystal growth rate and appearance.Try to grow other metal crystals using this technique. Keep in mind the resulting crystals might not resemble a hedgehog. To choose a subject, find a metal salt that is soluble in water, does not oxidize too quickly in air, yet can react with zinc or iron (or other metal) to form crystals. The metal needs to be more reactive than tin or the substitution won't proceed. It's also a good idea to consider the toxicity of the metal, for personal safety and chemical disposal. You can consult the solubility rules to select good candidates for further experimentation. Sources Holleman, Arnold F.; Wiberg, Egon; Wiberg, Nils (1985). "Tin". Lehrbuch der Anorganischen Chemie (in German) (91–100 ed.). Walter de Gruyter. pp. 793–800. ISBN 3-11-007511-3.Schwartz, Mel (2002). "Tin and Alloys, Properties". Encyclopedia of Materials, Parts and Finishes (2nd ed.). CRC Press. ISBN 1-56676-661-3.