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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Microsized mountain range

by Manny I. Fox Morone
March 3, 2023

Crystals about 10 micrometers wide in the form of white triangles resembling a series of mountains and ridges spread over a black background with a few circular iridescent-looking liquid crystal droplets peppered in the top right corner of the frame.
Credit: Sukrit Tantrawong

While these crystals resemble the snowy peaks and treacherous ridges of the Alps, those afraid of heights can rest easy knowing that each of these slopes are only about a dozen micrometers wide. Sukrit Tantrawong, a retired professor at Thammasat University, created the crystals by making a 1:1 mixture of octadecane and a liquid-crystal material called 4-cyano-4’-pentylbiphenyl, or 5CB. By cooling the mixture slowly, the octadecane began to crystallize, forming a film of these tiny geometric units that look like snowcaps under cross-polarized lighting. You can see small liquid-crystal droplets that appear to be creeping into the top right corner of the image as the 5CB molecules begin to coalesce. Tantrawong’s collaborators are still working to understand mixtures like this with the goal of developing responsive liquid-crystal displays.

Submitted by Sukrit Tantrawong

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