“A single droplet contains the wonders of nature,” the following video asserts in its opening shot.
Which really is true, especially when you have a special camera to document a particular chemistry drama playing out inside the droplets. As Yan Liang, the Chinese scientist and visualizer who made this video, shows us, when a drop of water containing a salt (like sodium chloride, a.k.a. table salt, or the more complex sodium sulfate) dries, the salts come out of solution and form beautiful crystals. Like this:
Water molecules are polarized — they have a negative side (oxygen) and a positive side (hydrogen). So what’s happening is that polarized water is breaking the ionic bonds holding the sodium and chlorine in the salt together. When the water dries up, the two elements can rejoin and form crystals.
Liang shot these time lapses and recently posted them to his educational website Beauty of Science (worth your click). The site has a collection of videos, still images, and cartoons showing off scientific phenomena — like elements combusting — in high definition.
Liang previously ran a website called BeautifulChemistry.net, where he posted similar slow-motion videos of chemical reactions. (His efforts at Beautiful Chemistry have been folded into his new Beauty of Science site.)
One of his videos, posted below, won the National Science Foundation’s 2015 Visualization Challenge, an annual contest celebrating creativity in scientific visualizations.