This Is What Your Cup Of Coffee Looks Like Under The Microscope

See stunning crystals of caffeine, painkillers and cholesterol.

Biologist Christopher King has perfected the technique of photographing the delicate crystal structures that appear under his microscope from chemical samples such as dopamine and cholesterol, including this image of caffeine and melatonin.

“Uranium Nitrate Crystals”

King studied as a biologist before researching parasitology and autopsy, where he examined microorganisms under the microscope. When he moved to a histology laboratory he studied the microscopic structure of tissues, using staining techniques that allowed him to make the samples more clear when making images.

“Urea crystals in Gelatin”

“Vanillin Crystal Mandala”

King told Akita: “One day when I was researching a new tissue staining technique that used polarized light microscopy to diagnose alzheimers, I learned that polarized light can also be used to visualize crystal structures.

“Eager to try this out I grabbed some citric acid and made a solution out of it that I let evaporate. The resulting crystals made beautiful patterns that glowed with vibrant colours under the microscope.”

“Hippuric Acid crystals”

“Painkiller crystals”

Encouraged by the results, King experimented with different chemicals, including nutritional supplements, and combined them to manipulate the formation of the crystals into some “surreal and psychedelic” imagery.

“Salicylic Acid crystals”


“Melatonin and NAC medicine crystals”

After friends and family were impressed with the results, King turned his apartment into a studio laboratory with a microscope and SLDR camera. He uses between 40x and 100x magnification and edits some of the images to bring out the best of the colours and patterns.

“Dopamine Glitch Composite Image”

“Curcumin crystals (from Tumeric)”

“I have found that some of the B Vitamins, Cholesterol, Dopamine, Caffeine, and chemicals salts, especially Uranyl Nitrate, make the best crystals.

“My favourite image is probably the one I called Jellyfish which uses liquid crystals mixed with orange essential oil to make make some very intricate and striking patterns.”

“Liquid crystals and orange oil”

“Strawberry DNA crystals”

King has ambitions to experiment with micropainting, where he makes crystal paint and uses the smallest possible brush to create new works.

“Vitamin B1 crystals”

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“Vitamin B12 crystals formed around a hair”

You can see all of King’s microscope art and buy some of his work on Redbubble here.

Akita was granted permission to use images by Christopher King.

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