Pictures of Chemicals

Person weighing orange chemical on a scale

chemicalbilly / Getty Images

Sometimes it is helpful to see pictures of chemicals so that you know what to expect when dealing with them and so you can recognize when a chemical doesn't look the way it should. This is a collection of photographs of various chemicals that might be found in a chemistry laboratory.

Potassium Nitrate

Potassium nitrate or saltpeter is a white crystalline solid.
Potassium nitrate or saltpeter is a white crystalline solid. Walkerma, public domain

Potassium nitrate is a salt with the chemical formula KNO3. When pure, it is a white powder or crystalline solid. The compound forms orthorhombic crystals that transition into trigonal crystals. The impure form that occurs naturally is called saltpeter. Potassium nitrate is not poisonous. It is somewhat soluble in water, but insoluble in alcohol.

Potassium Permanganate Sample

This is a sample of potassium permanganate.
This is a sample of potassium permanganate, an inorganic salt. Ben Mills

Potassium permanganate has the formula KMnO4. As a solid chemical, potassium permanganate forms purple needle-shaped crystals that have bronze-gray metallic sheen. The salt dissolves in water to yield a characteristic magenta-colored solution.

Potassium Dichromate Sample

Potassium dichromate has a bright orange-red color.
Potassium dichromate has a bright orange-red color. It is a hexavalent chromium compound, so avoid contact or ingestion. Use an appropriate disposal method. Ben Mills

Potassium dichromate has a formula of K2Cr2O7. It is an odorless reddish orange crystalline solid. Potassium dichromate is used as an oxidizing agent. It contains hexavalent chromium and is acutely toxic.

Lead Acetate Sample

Crystals of lead (II) acetate or sugar of lead.
These crystals of lead (II) acetate, also known as sugar of lead, were prepared by reacting lead carbonate with aqueous acetic acid and evaporating the resulting solution. Dormroomchemist, wikipedia.com

Lead acetate and water react to form Pb(CH3COO)2·3H2O. Lead acetate occurs as colorless crystals or as a white powder. The substance is also known as sugar of lead because it has a sweet flavor. Historically, it was used as a sweetener, even though it is highly toxic.

Sodium Acetate Sample

This is a crystal of sodium acetate trihydrate or hot ice.
This is a crystal of sodium acetate trihydrate. A sample of sodium acetate may appear as a translucent crystal or in the form of a white powder. Henry Mühlfpordt

Sodium acetate has the chemical formula CH3COONa. This compound occurs as transparent crystals or as a white powder. Sodium acetate is sometimes called hot ice because a supersaturated solution crystallizes via an exothermic reaction. Sodium acetate forms from the reaction between sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid. It may be prepared by mixing baking soda and vinegar and boiling off the excess water.

Nickel(II) Sulfate Hexahydrate

This is a sample of nickel(II) sulfate hexahydrate, also known simply as nickel sulfate.
This is a sample of nickel(II) sulfate hexahydrate, also known simply as nickel sulfate. Ben Mills

Nickel sulfate has the formula NiSO4. The metal salt is commonly used to provide the Ni2+ ion in electroplating.

Potassium Ferricyanide Sample

Potassium ferricyanide is also called Red Prussiate of Potash.
Potassium ferricyanide is also called Red Prussiate of Potash. It forms red monoclinic crystals. Ben Mills

Potassium ferricyanide is a bright red metal salt with the formula K3[Fe(CN)6].

Potassium Ferricyanide Sample

Potassium Ferricyanide
Potassium ferricyanide usually is found as red granules or as a red powder. In solution it exhibits a yellow-green fluorescence. Gert Wrigge & Ilja Gerhardt

Potassium ferricyanide is potassium hexacyanoferrate(III), which has the chemical formula K3[Fe(CN)6]. It occurs as deep red crystals or an orange-red powder. The compound is soluble in water, where it displays a green-yellow fluorescence. Potassium ferricyanide is needed to make ultramarine dyes, among other uses.

Green Rust or Iron Hydroxide

This cup contains iron(II) hydroxide precipitate or green rust.
This cup contains iron(II) hydroxide precipitate or green rust. The green rust resulted from the electrolysis of sodium carbonate solution with an iron anode. Chemicalinterest, public domain

The usual form of rust is red, but green rust also occurs. It is name given to compounds that contain iron(II) and iron(III) cations. Usually, this is iron hydroxide, but carbonates, sulfates, and chlorides may also be termed "green rust." Green rust sometimes forms on steel and iron surfaces, particularly when they are exposed to salt water.

Sulfur Sample

This is a sample of pure sulphur, a yellow nonmetallic element.
This is a sample of pure sulphur, a yellow nonmetallic element. Ben Mills

Sulfur is a pure nonmetallic element that is commonly found in a laboratory. It occurs as a yellow powder or as a translucent yellow crystal. When melted, it forms a blood-red liquid. Sulfur is important for many chemical reactions and industrial processes. It is a component of fertilizers, dyes, antibiotics, fungicides, and vulcanized rubber. It can be used to preserve fruit and bleach paper.

Sodium Carbonate Sample

This is powdered sodium carbonate, also known as washing soda or soda ash.
This is powdered sodium carbonate, also known as washing soda or soda ash. Ondřej Mangl, public domain

The molecular formula of sodium carbonate is Na2CO3. Sodium carbonate is used as a water softener, in the manufacture of glass, for taxidermy, as an electrolyte in chemistry and as a fixative in dyeing.

Iron(II) Sulfate Crystals

This is a photograph of iron(II) sulfate crystals.
This is a photograph of iron(II) sulfate crystals. Ben Mills/PD

Iron(II) sulfate has the chemical formula FeSO4·xH2O. Its appearance depends on hydration. Anhydrous iron(II) sulfate is white. The monohydrate forms pale yellow crystals. The heptahydrate forms blue green crystals. The chemical is used to make inks and is popular as a crystal-growing chemical.

Silica Gel Beads

Silica gel is a type of silicon dioxide that is used to control humidity.
Silica gel is a type of silicon dioxide that is used to control humidity. Although it is called a gel, silica gel actually is a solid. Balanarayanan

Silica gel is a porous form of silica or silicon dioxide, SiO2. The gel is most often found as round beads, which are used to absorb water.

Sulfuric Acid

This is a bottle of 96% sulfuric acid, also known as sulphuric acid.
This is a bottle of 96% sulfuric acid, also known as sulphuric acid. W. Oelen, Creative Commons License

The chemical formula for sulfuric acid is H2SO4. Pure sulfuric acid solution is colorless. The strong acid is key to many chemical reactions.

Crude Oil

This is a sample of crude oil or petroleum.
This is a sample of crude oil or petroleum. This specimen displays a green fluorescence. Glasbruch2007, Creative Commons License

Crude oil or petroleum occurs in a range of colors, including brown, amber, nearly black, green, and red. It consists primarily of hydrocarbons, include alkanes, cycloalkanes, and aromatic hydrocarbons. Its exact chemical composition depends on its source.