Crystals are solids that are formed from regular repeating patterns of molecules. One of the most spectacular crystal formations is sodium acetate. I made sodium acetate by using a procedure from instructables. It was interesting, but very time consuming, so purchasing a bottle of it maybe a better way to go. When sodium acetate, CH3–COO– Na+, is dissolved in a little water, the oppositely charged ions dissociate. If left undisturbed and cooled, the ions do not form crystals and the sodium acetate remains a liquid, far below its melting point. If disturbed, or a tiny sodium acetate crystal is introduced into the solution, the oppositely charged ions (CH3–COO– and Na+) form a solid crytal structure quickly. The process is exothermic, releasing heat energy, which explains why this process is commonly referred to as "hot ice".