A Sea of Lipid Flowers

Year: 
2017
Ranking: 
People's Choice
Artist: 
Marine Minasyan
Department: 
Materials Research Laboratory
Lab: 
Safinya Lab

Description

This abstract image is of a positively charged lipid in its inverse hexagonal phase. Lipids have different phases based on their geometry and are able to swiftly change from one phase (one abstract form) to another, based on their interaction with water.

The image above is of DOPE,  a positively charged lipid in its inverse hexagonal phase. The image was taken under a polarized microscope during a water penetration scan, where upon contact with water the lipids become liquid crystalline. A polarized microscope was necessary to obtain this image because the lipid in this phase is birefringent, has two different indices of refraction. This method is used to qualitatively characterize the different possible phases of lipids based on their textures which are governed by their geometry. The textures develop over time  as they continue interacting with water. It is important to note that not all lipids will have all phases and special geometries are needed for the lipids to spontaneously form these textures.

CSEP CNSI Schuller Lab UCSB