Caffeine Crystals at 40 Microns

By Jason Fitzpatrick on July 19th, 2012

There’s a good chance you or your office mates are knocking back coffee this morning; thanks to a submission in the Wellcome Image Awards you can take a very personal look at the crystals of caffeine that make your coffee impart that morning buzz.

The Wellcome Image Awards is a yearly contest focused on the submission of beautiful high-maginification scientific images. The goal is to create a collection of images every year that help the public get closer to the microscopic world around them and the science that drives it. The above image is a electron-microscope scan courtesy of Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy:

This false-coloured scanning electron micrograph shows caffeine crystals. Caffeine is a bitter, crystalline xanthine alkaloid that acts as a stimulant drug. In plants, caffeine functions as a defence mechanism. Found in varying quantities in the seeds, leaves and fruit of some plants, caffeine acts as a natural pesticide that paralyses and kills certain insects feeding on the plant. The main crystals of caffeine were 400-500 microns long; however, this crystal group formed on the end of the larger crystal and measures around 40 microns in length.

For more images of things like seedlings, cells, crystals, and more, hit up the link below to check out the 2012 submission gallery.

Wellcome Image Awards 2012 [via Neatorama]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/19/12
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