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Physical Chemistry

Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Lightning in a bottle

by Alexandra Taylor
July 30, 2019

A photo of a flask containing bolts of electricity resembling lightning.
Credit: Pedro Amaral

These bolts, which resemble lightning, are the result of excited argon atoms returning to their ground state. Pedro Amaral and Donald Hall, PhD candidates at Drexel University, created the demonstration by injecting argon gas into a round-bottom flask. Using a Tesla coil as a source of electrons, they generated excited argon radicals to form argon plasma. The argon atoms released light as they returned to their ground state. This photo is part of a 24-part series on display near the general chemistry labs at Drexel. “We decided to take these pictures to use as decoration for the department and also to inspire freshmen and show them that chemistry can be pretty and fun,” Amaral explains.

Submitted by Pedro Amaral

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