Students Capture a Permanent Rainbow

    Emily Arrington, Senior, looks at her creation.
    Emily Arrington, Senior, looks at her creation.
    Eliza Copes

    Settling into seats in Honors 215, Science and Art class, Biochemistry Professor Natalia Smelkova starts the class with instructions for the lab.

    The lab includes light emissions spectrum, absorption, and the permanent rainbow.

    The class starts down the hallway as the chatter increases. So does the excitement. They grab their goggles and begin the procedures with each stroke of their hand.

    Today they are making rainbows using water and a nail-polish solution.

    They make precise calculations of each material needed. As they finish one step, they record it into their notebooks and move on to the next.

    Smelkova comes in and out, checking on her young  pupils. Groups are looking at the light spectrums and observing the colors, and chatters and exclamations fill the room. 

    “Look at that blue, vibrant color,” Kayla Fedison, junior, says.

    In their observation notebooks, students are instructed to make a diagram of the different colors they see through the spectrums.

    After that, they fill up a container half way with water, and they begin the first steps of capturing a rainbow.

    A student pulls a freshly generated “permanent rainbow” from the nail-polish solution. (Eliza Copes)

    Next, they slip a piece of black construction paper into the bottom of the container. Then they drop a dot of nail-polish solution that blossoms over the crisp, cold water.

    It develops a film over the water that resembles iridescent oil in a rain puddle.

    As students pull the black paper from the containers, the solution adheres to the paper, creating the permanent rainbow.

    “Beautiful. Look at the colors, and what differences do you see in the thickness?” Smelkova asks the students. 

    As they answer, she smiles.

    The colors that appear are bright. Blue, purple, green, teal, and pink come in to view, to name a few.

    The colors generated are from the reflection and chemical makeup of the nail polish. Students marvel at their creations.

     “I thought it was interesting. The nail polish brought on the same affect that oil does,” Emily Arrington, senior, says. “As well as the fact that it created its own solidified layer above the water. The aftermath was pretty, too.” 

    Each student analyzes their data and makes a few touches.

    They examine the thickness of the rainbows and the colors that are generated. Sometimes, alcohol in the nail-polish solution would only float on the water and not spread out and blossom. Other attempts produced full-spectrum results.

    The colors glimmer as the students cleaned up the lab.


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