The much-beloved annual event and contest #RealTimeChem Week encourages chemists on Twitter to share their chemistry—via photos, videos, and tweets—as they’re doing it. This year, in honor of the International Year of the Periodic Table, the week’s theme was #RealTimeElements. And the event expanded to include chemists on Instagram. To enter the contest, participants were required to share an image or video starring an element of the periodic table.
C&EN’s Chemistry in Pictures team is thrilled to have partnered in 2019 with the host of #RealTimeChem Week, blogger Doctor Galactic, to bring the element-themed competition to life. In total, 41 participants submitted 88 photos or videos of 49 elements, many of the entries highlighting science outreach. Carbon, copper, and silver were equally the most popular among the entries.
How were the winners chosen? C&EN’s Chemistry in Pictures team chose a short list of finalists, and Doctor Galactic selected the winners. This year, there are two grand-prize winners, one in each of two categories: video and photo. Each category also has two runners-up. We’re excited to present the winners, followed by some honorable mentions that we couldn’t leave out.
A #RealTimeElements laser show featuring iodine! A green 💚 laser induces yellow 💛 fluorescence in purple 💜 iodine vapor. The real show starts when the lights go out and the laser light scatters off sublimed iodine crystals on the beaker's edge #FluorescenceFriday pic.twitter.com/pyFTMC3gPe— Tom Kuntzleman (@pchemstud) November 15, 2019
This video shows fluorescing iodine vapor and was created by Tom Kuntzleman (@pchemstud on Twitter), a chemistry professor at Spring Arbor University. “The video was inspired by questions from students in my physical chemistry course,” Kuntzleman says. “I mentioned that I had read in a Journal of Chemical Education article that iodine fluoresces yellow when excited by a green laser. Of course, my students said they would love to see that happen.” Kuntzleman put some solid iodine in a large glass and heated it to produce purple vapor. Then he shined the light from a green laser pointer, shown scattering off the glass, through the iodine vapor, and sure enough, it looked as though the laser beam were yellow. “I thought I would try to see if the yellow fluorescence showed up a bit better in the dark. By the time I moved the flask into a dark room, a lot of the iodine vapor had crystallized on the sides of the glass. When I turned out the lights and tried the experiment again, I noticed the laser light reflecting off the iodine crystals produced a very fascinating effect. Struck by the beauty of the resulting laser show, I decided to share it with the chemists (and chemistry lovers) on Twitter.”
This “cool” video starring liquid nitrogen is by Sacha Toussaint (@orgochemist on Twitter and Instagram), a PhD candidate at the University of Denver. Toussaint tells C&EN that he and his students celebrated the last day of general chemistry class by answering a most important question: “What candy would be the most brittle at –196 °C?” Skittles took home that prize, followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and then peanut M&M’s.
In this video, phosphorus catches fire when it reacts with oxygen. As it oxidizes, it also produces chemiluminescence. The clip was created by Andres Tretiakov (@Andrestrujado on Twitter and Instagram), a science technician at St. Paul’s School in London. Tretiakov tells C&EN he was inspired by demonstrations like the one during Lieutenant Colonel Brian Duncan Shaw’s world-famous lecture on explosives.
Silicon nanoparticles stole the grand prize in the photo category. This image was created by Alyx Thiessen (@AlyxTheChemist on Twitter), a PhD student at the University of Alberta. Thiessen noticed a pretty pattern while drop casting silicon nanomaterials on a wafer, so she decided to snap this shot.
This image of uranium-containing torbernite was created by Carina Crucho (@CarinaCrucho on Twitter), a junior researcher at Instituto Superior Técnico. Crucho is passionate about science outreach and fascinated by fluorescence, so she naturally enjoys checking out the fluorescing minerals in the geology museum at Técnico.
This image of dragon’s breath, er, a crystallized cobalt compound, caught C&EN’s eye. It’s by Jesús Sanjosé-Orduna (@JSanjor on Twitter), a PhD student at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ). In an effort to fully characterize a new class of cobalt organometallic compounds, researchers crystallized a cobalt metallacycle for X-ray diffraction measurements. The head of ICIQ’s X-ray diffraction division helped take this image of the crystallized compound with a camera attached to a microscope.
Stuart Batten, (@SBattenResearch on Twitter) a chemistry professor at Monash University, wrote 20 tweets with the #RealTimeElements hashtag. This video showing indium being cut with scissors, was the Chemistry in Pictures team’s favorite of the bunch.
Shout-out to Andy Brunning (@ndbrning on Twitter), creator of Compound Interest and partner to C&EN on its Periodic Graphics series, for not just creating the promotional art for #RealTimeElements Week but also stirring up excitement with several elemental tweets, like this one.