Micro-Crystallography

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I read JG Ballard’s The Crystal World as a teenager,and it profoundly influenced my formative mind. I’ve had an obsession with the process of crystallisation ever since, the spontaneous emergence of a brittle order from the mobile chaos of the solution. Many years later in my scientific career I have regularly encountered crystalization in another form, that is X-ray Crystallography, which allows the structure of proteins to be determined at the atomic level after they have been coerced into forming crystals in the laboratory.Here I’m exploring crystallisation at a microscopic scale.  A culture of aquatic algae was mixed with ascorbic acid, and the mixture treated so as to allow crystals to form. In this unique process, the microorganisms become fixed and their nature preserved.  Each animalcule also  acts as a seed for the crystalization process, and subsequently controls the crystallization process happening around it, each giving rise to its own unique signature in a micrometre thin continuum of inseperable chemistry and life. The images were taken using a Nikon Eclipse Differential Interference Contrast Microscope using 100-200x magnification.

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