These strings of bubbles formed because of trapped air and water pockets in a polymerization reaction. Xiaolin Liu, a postdoctoral researcher in Jeffrey Moore’s group at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, captured the image, which shows a polymer resin made by her colleagues Benjamin Suslick and Zhenchuang Xu using frontal ring-opening metathesis polymerization (FROMP) of dicyclopentadiene. FROMP is an energy-efficient, exothermic reaction. The heat emitted by each ring-opening produces triggers the surrounding monomers to react until they’ve all been incorporated into the final, solid resin. However, if the reaction mixture isn’t degassed beforehand, the heat also vaporizes any moisture present, forming bubbles that become trapped in the resin. The golden color of the resin comes from the ruthenium Grubbs catalyst that facilitates the reaction; dicyclopentadiene itself is colorless.
Submitted by Xiaolin Liu
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