July 18, 2012:
Even hard-core science fans need a summer vacation. So let’s see what happens when we allow state-of-the-art microscopic images, typically created to analyze semiconductor crystals and other high-tech materials, to transcend their role as passive transmitters of information. With a keen eye, and maybe a dash or two of color, these images can transform into objects of beauty and art, suggests the Materials Research Society (MRS), sponsor of a semi-annual Science as Art competition. Featured here, the top winners from the 2012 MRS Spring Meeting lead a pleasurable profusion of summer activities…
TRIP TO THE ZOO
Shaahin Amini, an engineering graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, invites us for an up-close look a popular zoo animal. Amini gazed for three hours at a maze of black-and-white crosshatched lines, tubes and beads before he spotted this 0.05-millimeter baby giraffe among the wrinkled dendrites of nickel, aluminum and carbon (magnified 3,800 times using a scanning electron microscope). He used Photoshop to add brown for the skin patches, red for the tongue and green for the jungle.
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Revenge of the Blob Emily Warren of Caltech University brings to mind an evening at the drive-in movies. Failed evaporation of copper metal onto a patterned silicon wafer resulted in this seemingly animated purple blob. In all fairness, Warren titled her image “The Persistence of Lithography,” but one can’t help but imagine revenge of the blob, 1950s-style, or maybe the cousin of B.O.B, the indestructible gelatinous mass from Monsters vs. Aliens (2009).
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Lone Mountaineer Mountain climbing is the activity of choice for Benjamin Tee of Stanford University. Using cross-polarized optical microscopy, he produced this image of a lone man (wearing a curious hat) standing atop a steep mountain of crystal snow, made from high-performance organic semiconductor crystals. This stunning visual pattern inspired Tee to write an accompanying Haiku: The scientist sits atop Mountains of organic crystal snow Yonder the electrons flow?
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Flower Power Grow a beautiful summer garden with Adrianus I Aria of Caltech University, who turned carbon nanotube pillars into bold flowers by adding a few dashes of color to a scanning electron microscopy image.
PHOTOS: Flowers To Die For
Dark Forest Daniel Jacobsson of Lund University in Sweden leads a long hike into a dark forest of semiconducting nanowires composed of gallium arsenide, which he colored light brown, and indium gallium phosphide, tinted light green. He made the image using a scanning electron microscope.
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Cupcakes in the Oven Take a summer baking class with Le He of the University of California, Riverside. He used scanning electron microscopy to image self-assembly of colloidal “sprinkles” onto the surface of “pre-made cupcakes”.
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Glowing Jellyfish Try to find anything at the local aquarium more captivating than this germanium telluride nanostructure. Qiqi Zhuo of Soonchow University in China synthesized the structure, which he called Son of the Sea, by chemical vapor deposition, a method used commonly in the production of solid, high-purity materials.
PHOTOS: What Glows in the Night