Chocolate Like You’ve Never Seen It: Magnified 5,000 Times

Scanning electron love

Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University

It’s February, and the cupids are fluttering about, their tiny composite bows trained upon unwitting victims. Amongst the relentless onslaught of red-colored stationery comes another assault, one to which I will always surrender: that of chocolate. No matter how strong your curmudgeonesque gripes with Valentine’s Day, it’s hard to hate chocolate.

At Johns Hopkins University, a materials science class took confectionery love to a new level. A microscopic level, that is. With a scanning electron microscope, students zoomed in at magnifications of 400 to 5,000 times and gazed upon an alien world called chocolate, made up of sugar crystals and cocoa butter globules melded together in a bumpy pockmarked surface. The course was a part of a larger effort to engage students in relatable ways to materials sciences. And while this unusual view of chocolate was not one that made me personally salivate, it’s fascinating nonetheless.