Today in NC State History: Lab’s impact becomes crystal clear

June 5, 2015
By Chris Saunders

historyIconWith NC State’s emphasis on research, it should be no surprise that the college has a history of keeping up with cutting-edge discoveries around the world.

And that is exactly what happened on this day in 1925 when The Technician announced that a discovery — albeit an accidental one — at the Engineering Experimental Station matched a similar one by General Electric.

It was a simple facilities happenstance that brought about the find of the scientific anomaly.

While a furnace in Winston Hall was being tested, it was found that its coils were burned out. After the furnace cooled for two days, it was taken apart. “When the old winding, a coil of square copper wire one-eighth inch square, was removed, it was found to be in one solid crystal,” reported The Technician.

Winston Hall, home to the crystal coil and furnace that produced it in 1925.

Winston Hall, home to the crystal coil and furnace that produced it in 1925.

The discovery was similar to 0ne that occurred two months prior at General Electric. There, the company produced some copper crystals that each measured a couple of inches in length. In both cases, it was the annealing process when the copper cooled that was responsible for the crystallization.

Though it was an accident, researchers at the station were amazed at the properties of the crystal.

“The wire could be bent as easily as soft wax, but after having been bent once, it was almost impossible to be straightened,” The Technician reported. “If a piece of the wire is dropped or given a severe jar, it immediately become as rigid as though it was made of iron.”


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