Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chemicals under the microscope

Chemical compounds under the microscope have fascinating colors and forms. On my blog I posted a small selection of microscope photos of different chemical compounds. All of them are water soluble chemicals (salts) that were easy to handle and prepare. I think it is a nice collection that show the variety of forms and colors chemicals can have under the microscope. They can have incredible colors, especially salts with rare earth elements as cation. Some of the compounds are common substances which can be found in daily life like table salt or magnesium sulfate. Others are very exotic only used for chemical analyses or strange applications like gadolinium nitrate that’s used as soluble neutron poison in nuclear reactors.

Erbium nitrate
Holmium nitrate

Preparation was done on a microscope slide with water, propanol or methanol and with few sample material (less than 0.5 gr). The solution was dropped on the slide and dried in a heat cabinet until the fluid were vaporized; a difficult process because some of the salts are very hygroscopic (they become fluid by air moisture). All of the photographs are made with a polarization microscope which allows observing samples in normal visible and in polarized light. The light is blocked by a polarizer and orientated at 90 degrees to the illumination. This simple technique produces very colorful images by interference of the light waves. Few ones are made in dark field microscopy that shows margins of mineral grains in a higher contrast. 

The posts that are linked below have no scientific importance they are made only for aesthetic purposes. I have examined neither the light refraction nor birefringence; both are important values for analytical purposes, but not necessary for photography.

Enjoy the collection; these are some of the structures that keep the world together. I will enlarge it in the future if I have time.

Links to the different compounds (in alphabetical order):

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