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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Micro(scopic) waves

by Manny I. Fox Morone
November 12, 2020

Wavy crystals of malic acid that appear purple, blue, and yellow under a cross-polarized light microscope.
Credit: Esther Fleming

By day, Esther Fleming is a forensic scientist in the Drug Section at the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory in Baton Rouge. There, she analyzes samples for microscopic crystal patterns that can help identify illicit substances. Fleming doesn’t take her work home with her per se (she keeps all samples at the lab), but she’s made a hobby of taking photos of crystal patterns of kitchen chemicals and other commercially available substances, like vitamins, amino acids, table salt, and soy sauce. This pattern comes from crystals of malic acid, a sour additive used in some candies, magnified 10 times under a microscope. She took the photograph using polarized light through a waveplate, which together create these colors in the image. “The intricacy and beauty of something that is so small is nothing short of amazing,” Fleming says. “And chemistry is at the root of it.”

Submitted by Esther Fleming. Follow her on Instagram @microartbyef, on Twitter @MicroArtByEF, and on Facebook. And see more of her photos on her website.

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