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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Everything matters

by Ivan Amato, special to C&EN
September 15, 2021

A micrograph shows a crystallized mixture of β-alanine and citric acid.
Credit: Ivan Amato

I have taken up the art of crystal photomicrography. Here, I have chosen a sesame seed–sized patch of a microscope slide on which I have recrystallized a mixture of β-alanine (a nutritional supplement and exercise aid) and citric acid (a common pantry item and a crucial ingredient in my mom’s stuffed cabbage recipe) from an aqueous solution. I found this engaging combination of colors, textures, and composition on the slide. I rely in this case on crossed polarizing filters to help bring out edges and colors in thin crystals, sometimes in breathtaking ways. The lesson, in chemistry and otherwise, of this art form for me is that everything matters: the solutes, the solvent (for example, water or an ethanol solution like gin), the rate of solidification, amount of time before observing, humidity in the air, magnification power, angle between two polarizers, intensity of illumination, my mood. Everything matters.

Submitted by Ivan Amato. Follow him on Instagram @ivanamato61.

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