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Videos made by Chinese scientists reveal hidden beauty of chemistry

For many people, chemical reactions may mean tedious laboratory work and complex equations. But Liang Yan, creator of the award-winning series Beautiful Chemistry and Envisioning Chemistry, has made them fall in love with chemistry.

Liang Yan/online photo

online photo

Liang's videos reveal stunning details that are sometimes invisible to human eyes. Under the microscope, people see metals, such as magnesium, lithium, and iron powders burn like trees and flowers.

The videos were highly recommended by Time.com, which says that "even though chemistry is not your subject and you are asleep for the whole class, you'll still fall in love with it after watching Beautiful Chemistry."

online photo

online photo

The goal is to let more people know that chemistry is a very beautiful subject, said Liang, a scientist with a background in chemistry. Liang graduated from Tsinghua University and got a doctorate degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in the United States.

He wants more people to feel the same wonder and excitement he felt when he first witnessed the magnificent reaction between a drop of silver nitrate and sodium chloride.

online photo

online photo

Taking advantage of his proficiency in photography, Liang started making videos.

A cuvette was used to hold the chemical reactions, because its surface is smooth, and could vividly display the visual effects of the reactions, Liang said.

online photo

online photo

Before Liang, a lot of people had videotaped similar chemical reactions. But by letting the process happen in test tubes, it was hard to see the beauty of the reactions with the naked eye, due to distractions caused by reflections or distortions.

Liang and his colleagues didn't add special effects to the videos in order to honestly reflect the chemical reactions.