This may look like a rose, but it’s actually a self-assembling nanostructure designed to look like one by researchers at Harvard University. These were made using a solution of chemicals and minerals, with some of the structures being smaller than the width of a human hair. Practical users are in the optics and engineering fields. They started with flowers, stems and vases because these shapes are the to start with. By simply changing the temperature, pH, and carbon dioxide content of the chemical solutions, the scientists were able to manipulate and control the growth of the structures. Continue reading for more.
Here’s what the researchers say: “The emergence of complex nano and microstructures is of fundamental interest, and the ability to program their form has practical ramifications in fields such as optics, catalysis, and electronics. We developed carbonate-silica microstructures in a dynamic reaction-diffusion system that allow us to rationally devise schemes for precisely sculpting a great variety of elementary shapes by diffusion of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a solution of barium chloride and sodium metasilicate.
We identify two distinct growth modes and show how continuous and discrete modulations in CO2 concentration, pH, and temperature can be used to deterministically switch between different regimes and create a bouquet of hierarchically assembled multiscale microstructures with unprecedented levels of complexity and precision. These results outline a nanotechnology strategy for ‘collaborating’ with self-assembly processes in real-time to build arbitrary tectonic architectures.”