Public Release:  Physicists reveal first 'nanoflowers'

Most beautiful science images of the year released

Institute of Physics

Today the Institute of Physics releases some of the most beautiful science images of the year so far, a collection of photomicrographs of tiny "flowers" and "trees" less than one thousandth the width of a human hair. The images are published in the Institute journal Nanotechnology.

These stunning images were taken by Ghim Wei Ho, a PhD student studying nanotechnology at Cambridge University. She has named some of her best photographs nanobouquet, nanotrees, and nanoflower because of their curious similarity to familiar organic structures such as flower-heads and tiny growing trees.

Ghim Wei's work involves making new types of materials based on nanotechnology and these flowers are an example of such a new material. Here, nanometre scale wires (about one thousandth the diameter of a human hair) of a silicon-carbon material (silicon carbide) are grown from tiny droplets of a liquid metal (Gallium) on a silicon surface, like the chips inside our home computers.

The wires grow as a gas containing methane flows over the surface. The gas reacts at the surface of the droplets and condenses to form the wires. By changing the temperature and pressure of the growth process the wires can be controllably fused together in a natural process to form a range of new structures including these flower-like materials.

Professor Mark Welland, head of Cambridge's Nanoscale Science Laboratory and Ghim Wei's supervisor, said:

"The unique structures shown in these images will have a range of exciting applications. Two that are currently being explored are their use as water repellant coatings and as a base for a new type of solar cell. We have already shown that as a coating water droplets roll off these surfaces when they are tilted at angles as small as 5 degrees. This behavior is a direct consequence of the ability of such nanostructured surfaces to strongly repel water".

Dr Paul Danielsen, director of communications at the Institute of Physics, said:

"Science can be beautiful. These images show cutting edge nanotechnology research but are strikingly images in their own right. Maybe science and art aren't so different after all."

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PLEASE MENTION THE INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS AS THE SOURCE OF THIS STORY AND, IF PUBLISHING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A HYPERLINK TO: http://www.iop.org

Notes to editors:

1. For the pictures and further information contact: David Reid, press officer, Institute of Physics, Tel: 44-207-470-4815, Mob: 07946 321473, E-mail: david.reid@iop.org. NB. Please check with your picture desk, pictures may already have been e-mailed to them.
2. The paper 'Three-dimensional crystalline SiC nanowire flowers' by Ghim Wei Ho, Andrew See Weng Wong, Dae-Joon Kang and Mark E Welland appears in the latest issue of the journal Nanotechnology. It can be viewed free of charge for 30 days here: http://stacks.iop.org/0957-4484/15/996.
3. The Institute of Physics is a leading international professional body and learned society with over 37,000 members, which promotes the advancement and dissemination of a knowledge of and education in the science of physics, pure and applied. It has a world-wide member ship and is a major international player in:

    Scientific publishing and electronic dissemination of physics;
    Setting professional standards for physicists and awarding professional qualifications;
    Promoting physics through scientific conferences, education and science policy advice.

The Institute is a member of the Science Council, and a nominated body of the Engineering Council. The Institute works in collaboration with national physical societies and plays an important rile in transnational societies such as the European Physical Society and represents British and Irish physicists in international organisations. In Great Britain and Ireland the Institute is active in providing support for physicists in all professions and careers, encouraging physics research and its applications, providing support for physicists in schools, colleges and universities, influencing government and informing public debate.

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