When one of Eric Täuscher’s PhD students arrived at the lab one morning and discovered she had left a TLC plate in an iodine chamber overnight, she could have simply thrown it out. But something compelled her to take a close look at the neglected plate. When she did, she noticed the tiny crystals growing from the plate, the product of the iodine in the chamber reacting with the plate’s aluminum backing. The crystal growth had also caused the silica on the front of the plate to lift off in delicate flakes. Intrigued, she showed it to Täuscher. He also found the corroded plate strangely beautiful, so he snapped a photo.
Täuscher’s lab at the Ilmenau University of Technology studies fluorescent organic molecules for pH, temperature, and ion sensing applications. The student had been running the TLC to try and identify a mysterious non-UV-absorbing byproduct of a reaction. It took her all of ten minutes to redo the plate.
Credit: Eric Täuscher. Follow him @heroofmolecules on Instagram
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