Colourful Reactions

The course Experimental Imaging was not just about understanding the basics of photography. Students were also taught how to create pictures rather than simply taking them. The main goal was to try out different techniques and methods introduced during the class – such as long exposure and high speed photography, as well as how to create a stop motion animation.

The brief was “Making the invisible visible“, therefore the team started by questioning “What makes things invisible?” and found there are a wide variety of reasons for things not being seen. For instance: too fast, too slow, inside something else, not in our sight range, too big or too small, amongst many others.

So they decided to experiment with a few of these concepts:

They started with simple experiments like capturing the freezing process, installing a GoPro and an LED lamp in the freezer. Then they moved on to visualize the melting process, using food coloring to make it more obvious.

Afterwards, they tried a different approach. In chemistry, biology and medicine, some reactions cannot be observed, often because they are too small, or there’s not enough contrast between stages. To visualise these and know that reactions have taken place, often some coloring or fluorescent agents are added. These don’t have any effect on the reaction, they just let scientists know what has happened.

They wanted to visualise a reaction in a similar way. When soap is added to milk, there is a very interesting reaction that is not easy to see unless you add some contrast. Soap molecules are bipolar. One end is attracted to water and the other repels it. Milk is mostly water but also contains fat, vitamins, minerals and proteins. When put together, the soap’s hydrophilic end dissolves in the water, while the hydrophobic attaches to the fat in the milk. As the soap molecules race to join with the fat molecules, the color is pushed toward different directions, and the movement goes on until the soap and the milk are evenly mixed.