Tag Archives: science art

Nanoflowers: Microscopic Gardens

Laurie says:

I can’t remember what led me to these exquisite microscopic photographs of nanoflowers. You could put many, many nanoflowers on the head of a pin. This isn’t exactly “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin,” but it definitely exists in the same scale universe. And it would give the angels a beautiful garden to dance in.

I’m always captured by beautiful images from science research.  They show me kinds of beauty that aren’t otherwise available to me.

This research was published in the August, 2004 issue of Nano Letters. When I look more recently there is lots of science information on uses and development, but not much on beauty.  The colors are added for enhancement.
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The quotes are from ScienceCentral.

The next time you buy flowers for that special someone, keep in mind that scientists are constructing tiny bouquets smaller than the width of a human hair. As this ScienceCentral News video explains, these “nanoflowers” could be used as the ultimate waterproof coating.

When people plant gardens, they have to wait for weeks or months to see the beauty of their efforts. But in the lab at the University of Cambridge’s Nanoscience Centre, these nanoflowers — tiny blossoms of silicon carbide one thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair — “grow” almost instantly. The “gardeners” are nanotechnologists Mark Welland and Ghim Wei Ho, and they’re using microscopic metal particles as the “seeds”.

The basic principle for growing all of these types of structures is you take a tiny seed particle, and then you expose that particle to a mixture of ‘nutrients,’ just like a seed in a real plant,” explains Welland. “And in this case the nutrients are different mixtures of gases.”

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The researchers begin by heating a tiny droplet of the metal gallium — only a few thousand atoms wide — in a computer-controlled oven. Then they flow methane gas over the droplet, which is attracted to it’s molten surface and induces tiny, rigid rods, or wires, of silicon (what sand is made of) and carbon to grow there. By controlling the temperature and flow of the gas, Ho and Welland can weave the wires into flower-like shapes. As well as gardening, Welland also likens the process to baking a cake.

“If you think of an ordinary oven, and you put a piece of pastry in it and heated it up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, you might get a banana shape; if you heated it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit you might get a bun; and if you heated it to 500 degrees Fahrenheit you might get a flower,” he says. “That allows us to control very precisely what kind of structure we get. We can literally sit on the computer that controls this oven, and say, ‘we’d like flowers today, please,’ press the buttons, and we have a surface coated in flowers.”

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However, the researchers weren’t expecting such beautiful structures when they began the experiment. According to Welland, it was his student Ho who had the original idea to try out the process with the particular mixture of gas and heat they now use. Forming the rigid nanowires, he says, is already a relatively well-known process, “but when we saw these extraordinary flowerlike structures forming, that was really very exciting for us.

The Crochet Reef: Hyperbolic Crochet Art

Laurie says:

I was staying with Vonda McIntyre when I was in Seattle last week. Vonda makes amazing undersea creatures based on the hyperbolic crochet technique. She told me about an exhibit, The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, that was recently at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in DC. I wish I had known about it sooner. I’m always fascinated by the conjunction of science and art. One of these days I’m going to play with a microscope and photography.

It included included some of her creatures, including the one below. I’ve admired Vonda’s work for years and posted here about an installation I did for her on another visit here.

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The idea of The Crochet Reef was originated as a homage to the Great Barrier Reef which is threatened by pollutants and global warming.  It was created by a world wide community of artists using classically feminine techniques.

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Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring instigated a project to crochet a woolen reef. The sisters, who grew up in the state of Queensland, began the project in 2005 in their Los Angeles living room, and for the first four years of its life the Reef took over their house, gradually expanding to become the dominant life-form in their home.

At the same time the project began to expand into other cities and countries  until it has now become a worldwide movement that engages communities across the globe from Chicago, New York and London, to Melbourne, Dublin and Capetown. The Crochet Reef is a unique fusion of art, science, mathematics, handicraft and community practice that may well be the largest community art project in the world.

The Smithsonian explains about hyperbolic space:

In 1997, Dr Daina Taimina, a mathematician, discovered how to make physical models of the geometry known as “hyperbolic space” using the art of crochet. Until that time many mathematicians believed it was impossible to construct such forms; yet nature had been doing just that for hundreds of millions of years. Many marine organisms embody hyperbolic geometry in their anatomies, including corals. This geometry maximizes surface area in a limited volume, thereby providing greater opportunity for filter feeding by stationary corals.

Two of Vonda’s creatures are in this photo, the red jelly fish in the center left and the sea anemone in the lower center right.

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The elegiac Bleached Bone Reef, featuring red-and-white coral tree by Quoin. Rubble coral piles by Margaret and Christine Wertheim and unknown Chinese factory workers. Miniature beaded corals by Nadia Severns, Jill Schreier and Pamela Stiles. Beaded jellyfish by Vonda N. McIntyre, white floaters by Evelyn Hardin, vintage doilies by makers unknown. In the background is the Branched Anemone Garden.

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