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This tangle of crystals is made up of minty menthol. Vance Williams, a professor of organic materials at Simon Fraser University, took this photograph at 20x magnification using polarized optical microscopy. “The form of the crystals arises from their tendency to grow as thin needles,” Williams explains. “With rapid cooling, this can become quite chaotic.” The needlike structures come from the crystals’ propensity to grow rapidly in one direction, while the variations in color arise from the crystals’ orientation and thickness, as well as differences in their refractive index. Williams’s research focuses on analyzing liquid crystalline materials; he photographed these crystals as part of an outreach effort to show people every-day chemicals close up.
Credit: Vance Williams
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