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Frozen oil droplets morph and shine

Hydrocarbon crystals could eventually serve as drug delivery vessels

12:00pm, January 26, 2016
oil droplet shapes

COLORFUL CREATIONS  When frozen, these hydrogen-carbon droplets form crystals with a variety of customizable shapes.

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In carefully chilled conditions, microscopic beads of oil freeze to form a panoply of shapes. 

The triangles, hexagons and other structures above are oil droplets tens of micrometers across that are mixed with water and a detergent-like substance, and then slowly frozen to form hydrogen-carbon crystals. Polarized light passing through the crystals disperses to create the kaleidoscopic color displays. University of Cambridge materials scientist Stoyan Smoukov and colleagues described the assorted shapes and the recipes for crafting them in the Dec. 17 Nature.

Scientists have observed similar transformations in other hydrocarbons, but this is the first time researchers have managed to manipulate the droplets’ shape-shifting, Smoukov says. His team varied detergent types and cooling speeds to control the

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