Ammonium dihydrogen phosphate

This molecule is used as a fertilizer. It is also used as a fire extinguisher, a piezoelectric transducer and in children’s crystal growing kits (where I obtained it). I took this photo with polarizing light and then rotated the polarizer to get the next picture.

Calcium chloride – polarized

This salt is used to give fireworks their orange colour, as a de-icer, desssicant and in heating pads. Not only is it hygroscopic, taking water from the atmosphere, but it is also deliquescent — absorbing so much water from the atmosphere as to form an aqueous solution. I made this slide with a glass slide…

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose is treated with boric acid to make household insulation.  Here is a picture with plane polarized light.

Cellulose Insulation – Darkfield

Cellulose, treated with boric acid, is often used as housing insulation. Here is a picture with tangential illumination, creating a dark field effect.


This 5-carbon sugar used as a sugar substitute. Though found naturally in a number of foods, and a product of our normal metabolism, industrially it may be produced from wood and wood products. Here are two images with plane polarized and polarized light.

Maple Syrup with Polarizing lenses

As winter approaches, the Maples’ leaves change colors. In a few months, as it begins to warm, the tree produces a sweet sap which is boiled down to Maple syrup, over 100litres of sap are boiled to make 1 litre of the sweet syrup. After sitting out for a few days, it dries. Here is…

Sowbug (Wood Louse)

The “sowbug” or Woodlouse is a terrestrial crustacean, closely related to shrimps, prawns and lobsters. They shed their shell and produce compost and aeration to soil, and live in moist areas. Here is a picture of the tip of one of the legs Finally, a picture of the tip of the leg with cross polarizers.

Potassium bitartrate

Potassium bitartrate is a product of wine production. It has culinary uses such as in baking, uses as a cleaning product and can be mixed with henna to activate it. It can also be used as a primary reference standard for a pH buffer. The picture was taken with polarizing filters and plane polarized light.TartrateFoldscope

Psyllium husk (Ispaghula)

Psyllium husk is used to increase dietary fibre. Met analyses show it is of benefit for irritable bowel syndrome and decreasing LDL cholesterol. It is also of benefit in improving blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes mellitus.. Here are some images showing psyllium husk with polarized light, plane polarized light and a short video…

Wasp nest

Often seen as pests, wasps have an important role in pollination (especially figs) and can be used for biocontrol. Social wasps make their paper-like nests out of broken down pieces of wood and other material. Here I have the images of a nest with plane and cross-polarized light.

Cayenne pepper – polarized

This is the same image as previous, but with polarizers.CayenneFoldscopeMOV This is a short video clip. The music in the background is by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Cayenne pepper

This image is taken with oblique illumination, giving a dark field effect.

Cotton Grass (Iceland)

CottonGrassFoldscope’ The tufts of this sub-arctic plant have been used for wicks in lamps. Here are some pictures of the tufts under the Foldscope.

Volcanic rock

This tiny granule is from Silfra Iceland, where the North American and Eurasia plates are slowly moving apart. I used polarizing lenses and the adhesive coverslip which came with the Foldscope that ended up acting like a compensator plate. I was struck by how smooth the granule (probably volcanic basalt) was and the colors produced…

Turmeric with movie

Inspired by others in the microcosmos, I too looked at turmeric and made a little clip with polarizers. It appears as though the pigmented material is localized in certain areas.

Magnesium Sulphate – Polarizing movie

For a few pennies, I was able to get some Epsom salts. I added water and let it dry on the slide and then viewed with polarizing filters. Magnesium sulfate is used medically for certain cardiac rhythm problems (Torsades des points), severe asthma, and in certain cases to protect baby when mother enters labor early….

Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt) crystals.

Magnesium sulfate is used medically for certain cardiac rhythm problems (Torsades des points), severe asthma, and in certain cases to protect baby when mother enters labor early. It is also called Epsom salts and used for soaking and skin healing.

Serendipitous Dance of Polarizing Crystals – MgSO4

For a few pennies, I was able to get some Magnesium sulphate. I mixed in water and allowed it to dry on the slide. I thought it had dried, but when I looked at the clip I realized there was a drop of water (at about 7 seconds into the clip) at the top of…

Monosodium glutamate crystals

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is responsible for the umami or “savoury” taste of many of our foods. I was able to buy a tiny amount at a bulk food store for only a few pennies….can’t recall the last time I bought something so interesting for only a few pennies!

Raw Honey – polarizing light clip

Raw Honey often contains pollen and tiny bits of beeswax. I think the structure at about 4 o’clock maybe wax, but am not sure if I can say so confidently. As you watch the clip under polarized light, you can see the sugar (primarily glucose and fructose) crystals shimmering. Ambient room temperature is quite high…

Raw Honey (Unpasteurized)

Raw Honey plane polarized light.  You can see some of the crystalline structure of the sugars here.  

Methotrexate – short movie clip with polarizers

Here is a short clip of the Methotrexate crystals under polarizing filters.  Methotrexate was one of the first chemotherapeutic agents (and still used), and was discovered by Yellapragada Subbarao, who also had major contributions in elucidating the role of ATP and earliest antibiotics.