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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures Water Photo Contest winners

by Alexandra A. Taylor
August 3, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 31


Do science, take pictures, win money.

Enter our photo contest at or email

The ACS Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego will explore all things water. To celebrate, Chemistry in Pictures held a water-themed contest in partnership with the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement throughout the month of June. We looked for high-quality entries with a splash of creativity that help demonstrate scientific concepts. The winners featured here will receive a reusable water bottle and a cash prize. Look for these photos on display at ACS San Diego.

Grand-prize winner
Prize: $100 and a reusable water bottle

A photo of water droplets forming on a surface.
Credit: Rukmava Chatterjee

Water from thin air

Submitted by Rukmava Chatterjee

Hundreds of millions of people in the world lack access to safe water. Researchers like Rukmava Chatterjee, a PhD student in Sushant Anand’s lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago, want to fix this problem by developing devices like this one, which can harvest water from the air. This device consists of a cooled silicon surface impregnated with a wax layer that freezes a few degrees above 0 °C. When the surface comes in contact with humid air, the water in the air condenses and transfers heat to the wax layer. That small amount of heat melts the top of the wax layer, producing a hydrophobic liquid that lubricates the surface. The water droplets can then drip down the device and get collected.—MANNY MORONE

Runners up
Prize: $50 and a reusable water bottle

An SEM micrograph of an ice crystal embedded on a treated aluminum surface.
Credit: Evgenii Modin

Embedded ice

Submitted by Evgenii Modin

If you’ve ever had to sit on a plane while it was delayed on the tarmac in the winter, you can appreciate the need for materials that prevent aluminum from icing over. Evgenii Modin studies such “icephobic” surfaces at CIC nanoGUNE, a Basque research institute. For example, Modin and colleagues took structural-grade aluminum, blasted it with an infrared laser to create microscopic roughness of multiple length scales on the material’s surface, and then coated that surface with a hydrophobic fluorinated silane. This scanning electron microscope image shows an ice crystal (blue) embedded in the aluminum surface. To read more about this work, check out the paper in ACS Nano (2017, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b04634).—CRAIG BETTENHAUSEN


A photo of a test tube containing blue globules held up to the light.
Credit: Jesús Sanjosé-Orduna

Blue death

Submitted by Jesús Sanjosé-Orduna

These short-lived blue globs formed when water was added to a cyclopentadienyl cobalt complex. While it may look beautiful, Jesús Sanjosé-Orduna says this color is a bad sign for anyone who works with these complexes because it means that the reaction is contaminated. With the addition of moisture, “unstable species are being formed, which are going to decay in the next minutes into a nasty and useless black slurry,” he says. Sanjosé-Orduna is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia. Since beginning his PhD, he’s struggled with ambient humidity interacting with the sensitive cobalt complexes. His research focuses on using the complexes to catalyze C–H activation reactions.—ALEXANDRA TAYLOR


C&EN’s editorial team, not its BrandLab team, is responsible for the Chemistry in Pictures Photo Contest.



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