All That Glitters Isn't Litter

This is the problem Droguet’s team set out to solve using cellulose derived from commercially-available wood pulp. First, they had to figure out how to get the crystals to set up in the right way. They will automatically form a structure, but which structure depends on the ionic composition of the water they’re in. To change that composition, “you just add salt, really,” says Vignolini. The salt changes how the molecules are attracted to each other, and dictates the shape they form and subsequently the color of the glitter they make. Just adding five milligrams will change the color of an entire kilogram of cellulose, making the crystals refract

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