Chemistry in Ultra HD shows science like you've never seen it

Discover dancing fluorescent droplets, crystal gardens and watery clouds of chemicals in this new video compilation from BeautifulChemistry.net.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
3 min read

Scientists call it CoCl2 in Na2SiO3 Solution. You'll likely just call it "Awesome!" BeautifulChemistry.org

Chemistry was always the most visually appealing of the sciences I studied in school. There were all those amazing colors, plus smoke, bubbles and best of all, fire!

Turns out, I'm not the only one who found chemistry to be attractive. A collaboration between the Institute of Advanced Technology at the University of Science and Technology of China and Tsinghua University Press has led to the formation of BeautifulChemistry.net, a site whose goal is "to bring the beauty of chemistry to the general public through digital media and technology."

To start on the path, the creators "used a 4K UltraHD camera and special lenses to capture chemical reactions in astonishing detail without the distraction of beakers and test tubes." Those reactions are compiled in the following video and are broken into six different categories. You might not understand exactly what the chemical symbols mean in each video, but it helps to get Beautiful Chemistry's take on each category, which we've included below.

Or, you can just enjoy the stunning footage as a sheer work of art without knowing anything at all about the science, which is what I did -- the first time I watched.

Metal displacement

"We dropped zinc metal in silver nitrate (AgNO3), copper sulfate (CuSO4), and lead nitrate (Pb(NO3)2) solutions, and recorded the emergence of silver, copper, and lead metals with beautiful structure. To preserve the fragile structure of lead metal, we also added sodium silicate (Na2SiO3) and acetic acid (CH3COOH) to the solution to make it gelatinize."

Precipitation (1:10)

"This video features 5 precipitation reactions, each with its own "personality." In a typical demonstration of precipitation reactions, we see a transparent solution in a test tube at the beginning and a cloudy liquid at the end after adding a few droplets of another solution. However, when we used cubic glass cells to replace test tubes and took a much closer look, their unique beauty was revealed."

Chemical garden (2:20)

"This is our take of a popular chemical experiment showing the wonder of chemistry. The reaction occurred when a piece of metal salt was dropped in water glass (water solution of sodium silicate, Na2SiO3). The salt began to grow and generate many interesting forms due to the formation of water-permeable metal silicate membranes and osmotic effects."

Crystallization (3:01)

"Crystals are beautiful, both externally at the macroscopic level and internally at the atomic level. The same is true for the process of crystallization, which is the formation and growth of crystals. This video shows the crystallization of copper sulfate (CuSO4), sodium thiosulfate (Na2S2O3), potassium ferrioxalate (K3[Fe(C2O4)3]), and sodium acetate (CH3COONa). More accurately, these crystals all have water molecules inside them."

Color change (3:42)

"The molecules inside some plants giving them vibrant colors can change to other colors under acid and base conditions. What we show here is color change of purple cabbage and a flower named Teornia fournieri in sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and hydrochloric acid (HCl) solutions."

Bubbling (4:18)

"Many chemical reactions generate gases. In solution, gases escape as bubbles. Here we show 4 bubbling reactions. The last one is the electrolysis of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) aqueous solution. It is obvious that the reaction generated more hydrogen (H2) at the cathode than oxygen (O2) at the anode. In fact, the ideal volume ratio is H2:O2 = 2:1."

Dancing fluorescent droplets (5:12)

"We mixed the oily chemicals inside fluorescent sticks, then added sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solution to the mixture, which was inspired by Mr. Theodore Gray's Mad Science 2. What we got was something interesting: colorful fluorescent droplets with dynamic movement."