If you dry a high-concentration solution of vitamin C, the molecules self-assemble into intricate crystals. To the naked eye these crystals are transparent. But they are birefringent, which means that the amount by which light bends as it passes through them varies depending on the polarisation of incoming light and the angle at which the light strikes the surface.
When illuminated by polarised light and then viewed through a polarising filter set at a different angle, interference among adjacent light rays yields a kaleidoscopic explosion of colours.
Captured by Nathan P Myhrvold, this image – one of the top 44 entries chosen from 250 submissions in Princeton University’s 2014 Art of Science competition – illustrates perfectly the birefringent properties of Vitamin C crystals.
Now in its seventh year, the Art of Science competition – open to the entire Princeton community – explores the interplay between science and art and consists of images produced during the course of scientific inquiry that have aesthetic merit.
Image credit: Nathan P Myhrvold | Princeton University Art of Science