Birefringence of Ice

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Birefringence of Ice

#1 Post by RobBerdan » Sat Dec 29, 2018 3:39 am

It's pretty cold outside here in Calgary, AB and I had read that ice is birefringent (anistropic) or has 2 or more refractive indices which result in different colours when observed through a microscope using a polarizer and analyzer. A full wave plate can also enhance the colours. I took several microscope slides placed a drop of water on them and put them outside. I also took several more slides placed water and coverslip and put them in a metal tray and placed them in my backyard for about an hour (it was about -10 C outside). Both slides with and without coverslips worked fine though the crystals under the coverslip were thinner. I took one slide at a time inside and viewed them on my microscope - I put them on top of a thin metal plate with a hole on the stage so they would stay colder a little longer. They start to melt immediately but when observed with a 10X objective and polarized light they form colourful abstracts. I have between 1-5 minutes at most to take the pictures before they completely melt. You can also watch changes in the birefingence (colours) as the ice melts. Black spots are air bubbles.

I tested tap water and distilled water but results were similar. Below are a few photomicrographs which show that even something as simple as ice can be interesting when viewed by polarized light. Something to try on a cold winter day. You could take your microscope outside or put in the garage - I have done this with snowflakes, but however you do it - it can be fun.
rberdan_DSC_0036.jpg (258.48 KiB) Viewed 1378 times
rberdan_DSC_0015.jpg (125.18 KiB) Viewed 1378 times
rberdan_DSC_0034.jpg (225.14 KiB) Viewed 1378 times
rberdan_DSC_0010.jpg (89.04 KiB) Viewed 1378 times
DSC_0018.jpg (178 KiB) Viewed 1378 times

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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#2 Post by Radazz » Sat Dec 29, 2018 3:56 am

That’s very cool.
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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#3 Post by Bryan » Sat Dec 29, 2018 5:48 am

Nice colors, I would have thought the ice would melt too fast, do you use an led light source?

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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#4 Post by PeteM » Sat Dec 29, 2018 6:39 am

Wonderful results - with the added discipline of having to work so quickly. Thanks.

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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#5 Post by MicroBob » Sat Dec 29, 2018 7:07 am

Hi Rob,
thank you for showing these beautiful images! Ice really is an interesting topic.


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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#6 Post by Brad_ » Sat Dec 29, 2018 5:16 pm




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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#7 Post by ImperatorRex » Sat Dec 29, 2018 6:33 pm

I really enjoy your images, thanks for sharing.

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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#8 Post by 75RR » Sat Dec 29, 2018 6:38 pm

Really nice images. For some reason they look very 70s to me.
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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#9 Post by RobBerdan » Sat Dec 29, 2018 11:14 pm

Thank you for kind words. I hope to try some more of this type of photography and also see if I can photograph the birefringence in snowflakes this winter. I will post the photos and\or article later this winter.

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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#10 Post by Hobbyst46 » Sat Dec 29, 2018 11:28 pm

The discriminating feature of these very beautiful images is the gradual and continuous transition of color accross a large area, peculiar to the ice crystal (and organic polymers) and different from the crystallization patters of various chemicals and drugs that we often see.
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Re: Birefringence of Ice

#11 Post by coominya » Mon Dec 31, 2018 8:01 am

Yes, well done, fascinating images. I wonder if the dots are contamination particles?

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