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Published 2017 | Version v1.0.0
Pictorial Work Open

Dry & cracked


This image originally appeared as part of Northwestern's Scientific Images Contest. The contest and subsequent exhibitions are organized by Science in Society, the university's research center for science education and public engagement. Further information and opportunities to participate are available on their website. Prints and canvas editions of these Northwestern research images can also be purchased online (with the small net profit going to science education and outreach programming in the Chicago area).


This is a photo of failure. In this experiment, nanoparticles were suspended in water. Scientists then painted it onto a microscope slide, hoping to make a sturdy membrane that could be peeled off in one piece. But the coating cracked as it dried, like desert mud. Here, the cracks are lit up, showing the defects through a microscope. The colors come from iridescence, like what you see in soap bubbles.


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March 31, 2023
April 4, 2024