Iron salts reacted and then crystallized in this petri dish to produce what looks like a landscape of rivers, trees, and rolling hills. Alexis Ostrowski’s lab at Bowling Green State University studies reactions like this one, in which iron(III) complexes are reduced by light. The dish originally contained solutions of iron(III) ammonium citrate (green) and potassium ferricyanide (orange and yellow crystals). When Ostrowski’s group left the dish sitting around in the lab, the room’s lights started a reaction in which the iron(III) ions were reduced to iron(II) ions, which then reacted with the ferricyanide to make Prussian blue, or Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3. This is the same reaction used to print blueprints and make bluish cyanotype photographs. Once the dish’s water evaporated, the mixture of blue product and unreacted starting materials crystallized to create this paintinglike arrangement.
Submitted by Alexis D. Ostrowski
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