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"Diana's Tree" - so alchemists called branched crystals formed on the surface of mercury when it interacts with a solution of silver salt. To grow a "DIANO TREE" , in a glass with a capacity of 150 ml , first pour the mercury layer around 4mm . Then in a glass it is necessary to pour an 8% solution of silver nitrate approximately up to the top, and within 1-2 minutes on the surface of mercury will appear metal needles with a thickness of about 30 microns and a length of up to 1 mm . Little by little, the number of silver needles increases, and the bush grows up as if it were a single whole. After 8-10 hours, small needles are made smaller, and needles up to 2 cm in length are larger, some of which acquire the shape of fern leaves.
An effective result, which can be demonstrated in lectures on physical chemistry, is obtained if one or several silver wires with a thickness of about 0.5 mm are also dropped in a vessel with mercury as silver nitrate. In this case, after 10-15 minutes mercury seems to creep along the wires, and they will begin to grow silver needles, the length of which can reach 2-3 cm . Silver needles are not very firmly connected with each other, and the wires are also crumbled if you shake the glass or touch them with a glass rod. After adding a fresh portion of silver nitrate solution to the vessel, the park can be re-healed again, and the needles will grow not only on the wire, but also on crumbled crystals.
At the tips of the needles, under a microscope, you can see droplets of mercury. By the measure of the elongation of the needles, their ends are split, and in these places new needles are formed in the form of fans or thin uncut plates. Needle crystals easily break down or break up into thin plates, between which a layer of mercury is visible. It can be assumed that the needles are not pure silver single crystals, only oriented single crystals of the intermetallide - for example, Ag2Hg3 . The mechanism of formation of needle crystals is not so simple, as if it might seem to the main eye. Most likely, this is a nonlinear process involving many simultaneously concurrent competing stages - for example, the adsorption of Ag + ions on the surface of metallic mercury, their reduction up to the metal with the formation of Hg2 + ions, the diffusion of these ions into solution, the interaction of metallic silver with mercury with upbringing amalgams plus, in the end, the formation of intermetallic crystal nuclei is also their growth. All these processes lead to the growth of the "DIANO TREE" , which has a clearly fractal, self-similar structure. It is unlikely that alchemists suspected that centuries later their experiments could really serve as an illustration of phenomena that occur not only in inanimate, but also in living nature ...
Chemistry and Life
№ 6 1998, p. 17.