Under a Microscope, Heavy Metals Look Like Crystal Kingdoms

Chemicals and equations are a glimmering audiovisual feast in this macro 4K film.

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Dec 20 2016, 7:10pm

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If you’re anything like us, thinking about the Periodic Table of Elements is akin to counting sheep, but a stunning short film depicting the growth of white silver and black lead during metal displacement reactions has us wishing we’d paid more attention in chemistry class. The aptly titled Black (Lead) and White (Silver) is the brainchild of Beauty of Science (BOS), a scientist-led educational collective that produces high-quality visual content that brings the beauty of chemistry to the general public. 

In the video, crystalline metallic flakes multiply and branch into beautiful frost-like fractals, visualizing the chemical reactions that form white silver (Cu + 2AgNO3 → Cu(NO3)2  + 2Ag) and black lead (Zn + Pb(NO3)2 → Zn(NO3)2 + Pb). The film turns chemicals and equations into a glimmering audiovisual feast, pairing each sequence with a fittingly light or dark soundtrack. White (Silver) is accompanied by “Clear Visions” by Cymatix, while Black (Lead) is scored to “Off Limits” by Score Squad.

"For Black (Lead) and White (Silver), we were going to shoot many metal displacement reactions with a microscope. During the process, we discovered that the growth patterns between silver and lead were quite different. So, we decided to create a short film to compare the difference between the two metals. And luckily, we found two pieces of music that could enhance the contrast," filmmaker and BOS founder Yan Liang, Ph.D. tells The Creators Project.

The film is just one of the gorgeous scientific films produced by BOS. Their series Envisioning Chemistry visualizes reactions like elemental burning and precipitation, while their Cool Experiments series showcases the magic of physics experiments. See Black (Lead) and White (Silver), in full, below: 

Check out more gorgeous, 4K scientific films from Beauty of Science (BOS), here.

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