A Venture into Science and Macrophotography

6 min read

The Singapore Academy of Young Engineers and Scientists (SAYES) collaborated with the NTU Photo-Videographic Society (NTUPVS) to capture amazing shots of 5 aesthetic scientific experiments.

In this article, we share how you can explore these simple experiments, and the science behind them.

*Like any at-home science experiments, we advise you only recreate these experiments with adult supervision. For your own safety, please take care especially when handling hot water or dry ice.


The photographs below were all taken using macrophotography techniques. Macrophotography is a type of close-up photography that makes small objects appear to come alive through magnification.

1. Bubble Volcano

Take a look at what you can do with dry ice!

It all begins with dropping a piece of dry ice into a beaker filled with warm water, which produces a gaseous mix of carbon dioxide and water vapour. Dry ice is simply frozen carbon dioxide, which has a temperature of -78.5°C. Adding it to a beaker of warm water causes it to undergo sublimation, i.e. turn directly into gas. As the water cools down due to the dry ice, less water vapour is produced (fog), but the dry ice continues to sublimate and the bubble increases in size.

If soap is added into the beaker, you will observe zillions of cloudy bubbles starting to emerge from the bowl, which also results in a beautiful effect.

2. Rainbow Rain

Do you know why water and oil do not mix? Let’s take a look at the science behind this experiment to know why!

Water and oil do not mix because of how their molecules are constructed – water is a polar molecule while oil is a non-polar molecule. When combined, polar and non-polar molecules are immiscible, which means that they are unable to mix. However, food colouring mixes with water as the molecules of both substances are polar. As oil and food colouring is added to the water, the food colouring separates itself from the oil and bleeds into the water, creating beautiful streaks of “rain” through the water layer.

3. Lava Lamp

Vinegar is composed of acetic acid and water, which are polar compounds that do not mix with oil. When vinegar is added to oil, the denser vinegar sinks to the bottom while the oil floats to the top. As the drops of vinegar fall through the oil to the bottom, it reacts with the baking soda to produce carbon dioxide. These bubbles attach themselves to the vinegar and float to the surface. When the bubbles pop, the vinegar sinks back to the bottom of the beaker. We added some blue colouring to the vinegar to capture the reaction more clearly – and beautifully too!

4. Epsom Salt Crystals

Do you have some epsom salts lying around your house? If so, you too can recreate these stunning crystals just by adding water and food colouring!

The beautiful crystals you see here are made from a supersaturated epsom salt solution, created by mixing an excess of epsom salt in some hot water. As the solution cools, the solubility of water decreases. When the concentration of the salt exceeds the solubility of water, it exists in an unstable supersaturated state. At this point, even a light touch to the solution could kickstart the formation of crystals.

5. Ferrofluids

Did you know ferrofluids (literally meaning ‘fluid with magnetic properties’) were invented by NASA? Today, they are not just made for industrial use – you can buy it for your own experiments, or even make it for yourself!

Ferrofluids are typically made from tiny iron particles suspended in oil. When placed in a magnetic field, they are subjected to magnetic forces that changes the liquid’s shape. The “spikes” that form represent the 3-D magnetic field of the magnet. Those representations can be made to create beautiful art.

Are you a student? Interested to join us for similar activities?

We are excited to have you on board! Drop us an email at sayes@science.edu.sg and we will get in touch with you. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram too!

Written by Lee Yi Zhi and Samiksha Manoharan
Infographics by Chan Jing Yi
Photography by Members of SAYES and NTUPVS

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