If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: The color of life

by Brianna Barbu
January 12, 2023


A vial containing a dark green liquid layer above a colorless liquid layer, with a large group of round green bubbles at the interface between them.
Credit: Xiaolin Liu

Xiaolin Liu calls porphyrins “the colors of life” because they’re brightly colored and the molecular motif shows up in some very important biomolecules. A porphyrin is the backbone of the heme that binds oxygen in red blood cells, for example. In her work as a postdoc in the Moore group at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Liu makes porphyrin derivatives in the lab and studies their ability to conduct electricity. She took this photo of an emulsion that formed while she was trying to perform an extraction procedure on a porphyrin that she’d made that included both hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts. The water-loving and water-averse segments of the molecule caused it to behave as a surfactant. What resulted was not a clean extraction with distinct layers but an emulsion with large, emerald-colored bubbles reminiscent of plant cells, whose photosynthesis relies on another porphyrin-based molecule: chlorophyll.

Submitted by Xiaolin Liu

Do science. Take pictures. Win money. Enter our photo contest here.

Click here to see more Chemistry in Pictures.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.