The model, background and chronology

How does our world look like in the smallest scale? Why do different materials exhibit their respective properties? And what is the relevance for our daily lives, for technology, economy and research? The organiser of this project has devoted his life to answer these questions and communicate science to general public. To open a window to nanospace and show the importance of science is the purpose of the here presented project. It is officially registered with Guinness World Records. Never before has such a large section of the atomic structure of a crystal been modeled. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions:

Facts and figures

  • The model is a cube with edge length over 3.1 m,
  • consisting of 38880 balls of red and white colour (update: just finished a larger version with 40110 balls)
  • and, when put side by side, over 10 km of connecting sticks.
  • It visualizes the arrangement of atoms in crystals,
  • concretely the NaCl-structure-type, exhibited by many materials essential to our daily lifes.
  • The magnification factor as copmpared to the original is nearly one billion,
  • i.e. this is for example how a grain of table salt with edge length of 0.0000096 mm would "look like".

What is a crystal structure model?

Crystals are composed of a three dimensional periodic arrangement of atoms. The structure type shown in the model is a common one exhibited by numerous substances. It was amongst the first ones to be discovered: In 1915, William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg received the Nobel Prize in Physics for solving it for the first time. Since then, scientists are able to find out the way atoms are arranged in crystals which had major influence on technology, medicine and understanding of nature.
Building models helps visualizing the arrangement of atoms in crystals. There are different types of models, the one presented here is a so called "ball and stick model", depicting the gravicenter of atoms as balls and bonds connecting them as sticks.

What does "LARGEST crystal structure model" mean?

This model is the largest section of a crystal's atomic structure ever to be physically modeled true to scale in 3D. This means: Most atomic models (balls) used, most bond models (sticks) used and most unit cells displayed.

Why now? Is there a current relevance?

  • 2014 was proclaimed by United Nations the "International Year of Crystallography"
  • and 2015 the "International Year of Soils" - two topics based on what is shown in the model.
  • Exactly 100 years ago, the Nobel Prize was awarded to the discovery of the crystal structure shown in the model.

What about visiting the model?

The largest crystal structure model in the world visualizes the constitution of materials esential to our daily life - however, when magnified about one billion times! Already the visual appearance of the model is spectacular, not only for the size but because looking at it, you will experience unique optical effects. However, more important than the impression is the knowledge which is transferred via this project: What is a crystal? How do we know about the constitution of such a thing? Which materials exhibit the structure shown in the model and where do we encounter them in our daily life? The exhibition of the model in November 2015 will be complemented with guided tours, presentations, shows etc.
Are you interested in a guided trip to the nanocosm? Especially kindergarden groups and school classes of any age, but also any other kind of groups are cordially invited! Please contact me to coordinate a visit.

Can I show the model at my place?

The model is demountable and transportable. In the future, it shall be used to communicate science in exhibitions, at events, etc. The largest crystal structure model in the world is a very impressive exhibit, a unique eye-catcher and attention-getter as well as an exciting attraction. If you are interested in showing the whole model or parts of it - please contact me.

Who is the crazy guy building it?

Robert Krickl (*1981) is a mineralogist and crystallographer with emphasis on interdisciplinary topics connected to other geo-, bio- and material- as well as historical sciences. Besides scientific research, he dedicated his life to the communication of science to general public of all ages. After finishing his PhD in 2009, he does project-based research and is self employed, devoting himself to outreach, i.e. journalism, giving lectures, organising exhibitions, roadshows, school and kindergarten activities. He is known and recognized for his new and innovative ways of communicating science to everyone (inter alia winner of the British Council's FameLab competition) and has a wide national and international network (inter alia bord member of the Austrian Mineralogical Society and National Focal Point of the Earth Science Matters Foundation). You can get more information on his affiliations on his homepage and current activities on his facebook-site (like to follow).

Where do I get further information?

Chronology and timeline

(under construction)

Here is a short overview on the milestones of the project. A complete chronicle with current news etc. is provided by the facebook-site of the project.

  • 18.06.2013: Submission to Guinness Book of Records
  • 06.11.2013: Project accepted, officially registered as world record attempt
  • 04.04.-18.12.2014: Parts of the model used for science communication in the touring exhibition through Austria on the occasion of the "International Year of Crystallography" (United Nations) through all federal states of Austria, with contributions to the "Long Night of Research" and "Long Night of Museums", talks, lectures, school- and kindergarden-projects
  • 25.06.2014: Negotiations with the City of Vienna: The world record will be set 2015 in the courtyard of the Vienna City Hall
  • 26.01.2015: Presentation at the general assembly of the Austrian Mineralogical Society
  • 28.02.-01.03.2015: Exhibition of a module at the international fair "Mineralium" in the Wiener Stadthalle
  • 24.04.2015: Presentation of the project at the conference "Crystallography for the next generation: The legacy of IYCr" of the International Union of Crystallography under Auspices of UNESCO and others at Rabat, Morocco
  • 28.05.-10.07.2015: Exhibition of a module at the Oecological Garden at Mödling on the occasion of the cultural festival of Lower Austria
  • 29.05.2015: Exhibition at the "Long NIght of Churches" in Vienna
  • 15.07.2015: Contribution to the Children's University Vienna
  • 03.10.2015: Contribution to the "Long Night of Museums" in Vienna
  • 27.10.2015: Start of assembly at Vienna City Hall
  • 27.10.-30.11.2015: Assembling and presentation in the courtyard of the Vienna City Hall
  • 06.11.2015: Presentation of a postage stamp and special envelopes on the project
  • 07.-08.11.2015: Exhibition of a module at the mineral fair "Intermineralia" in Baden
  • 11.11.2015: Cenntenial of the Nobel Prize of Max von Laue who discovered that crystals exbibit a 3D-periodic arrangement of atoms - what is shown by the model.
  • 12.11.2015: Centennial of the Nobel Prize of William H. and William L. Bragg who solved the first crystal structures - like the one shown by the model.
  • 23.11.2015: Official world record attempt with international guests, talks, etc.
  • The display is extended until March 2016
  • 15.02.2016: World record officially accepted by Rekord Institut fuer Deutschland (institute registering world records in German speaking countries)
  • 24.02.2016: Finissage event at Vienna City Hall with international guests
  • March 2016: The last parts of the model are removed from Vienna City Hall.
  • 01.04.2016: World record officially accepted by Guinness Book of Records
  • 01.03.-31.05.2016: A part of the model is the highlight of the exhibition "Rohstoffe sind Zukunft" of the Mining University at Leoben (Styria)
  • 21.-28.08.2017: The model is displayed at the 24th Congress and General Assembly of the International Union of Crystallography in Hyderabad (India)
  • 22.01.-17.03.2019: A part of the model is highlight of the exhibition Rohstoffe sind Zukunft in Kapfenberg (Styria)
  • 07.-10.03.2019: A part of the model is highlight in the special exhibition of the new mineral fair Mineralientage Brunn am Gebirge (Lower Austria)
  • 18.-23.08.2019: The entire model is central element of the European Crystallographic Meeting in Vienna
  • The story goes on - stay tuned ;)

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