Distilling Oil

Spent the morning and most of the afternoon distilling essential oils with the help of John Gates, a water science researcher in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Using a sample of many plants from my backyard (pine needles, mint, lavender, green onions, grass), the material was boiled in water, condensed into an oil/water mixture, and separated using a centrifuge. From 500ml of material we extracted about 100ul of oil!

Distilling the vaporized water/oil mixture and separating in the centrifuge

The resulting oil/water mixture in a centrifuge tube (left) and the extracted oil (right)

Invar

Researching materials and inspirations for an upcoming ruler project, I discovered invar, a metal resistant to thermal expansion (changing size depending on the temperature).  Essentially steel, it has another interesting property:

“I have heard that Invar should not be roughly handled, such as dropped. Apparently this will disturb the grain structure and/or cause it to become magnetized to a small extent by the earth’s magnetic field.”

Via: Metalworking Compendium at the University of Wyoming

Allotropes of carbon

Eight structures made of carbon: diamond, graphite, Buckminsterfullerene, C540, C70, amorphous carbon, and single-walled carbon nanotube
Eight structures made of carbon: diamond, graphite, Buckminsterfullerene, C540, C70, amorphous carbon, and single-walled carbon nanotube

Using the same element (in this case carbon), different arrangements can result in wholly different structures known as allotropes.  From Wikipedia:

For example, carbon has 3 common allotropes: diamond, where the carbon atoms are bonded together in a tetrahedral lattice arrangement, graphite, where the carbon atoms are bonded together in sheets of a hexagonal lattice, and fullerenes, where the carbon atoms are bonded together in spherical, tubular, or ellipsoidal formations.

I love the permutations and simplicity and am imagining an art practice that restricts itself chemically.  It would be known as “Atomic Minimalism” and artists would restrict themselves to single elements, varying only their structure.