Maria Zakharova, a graduate student at Laval University, encountered this stunning emulsion when trying to purify the product of a reaction she’d run. She was trying to separate her low-polarity amide product from her reactant, undecanoic acid. Zakharova performed the extraction with dichloromethane (DCM), which dissolves her product, and water, which dissolves more-polar molecules, such as undecanoic acid. But instead of two clean, separable layers, Zakharova ended up with this. The undecanoic acid molecules anchored their polar heads in the water while keeping their nonpolar tails in the DCM, thereby forming micelles and preventing the water from settling as a separate layer. “This kind of emulsion remains stable for quite a long time—weeks, months,” Zakharova says. “Even though this reaction looks beautiful, it is not easy to purify.”—Manny MoroneSubmitted by Maria Zakharova
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