Rather than throw away perfectly good chemicals, Andres Tretiakov decided he’d purify what remained in an old bottle of potassium hexacyanoferrate(III)—also known as Prussian Red—with the other science technicians at St. Paul’s School in London. The method they chose was recrystallization, in which a dissolved mixture sits and cools until until crystals of a pure substance start to form and precipitate from the solution. The group plucked the small solids out of the bottle, made a saturated solution of them in boiling water, and then—unfortunately or serendipitously, depending on how you look at it—forgot about the thing all summer. When they returned, they found these deep-red, sea-urchin-like crystals sitting in their beaker, lit from behind with a flashlight for fiery effect.
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