Small wonder – Most flowers start as seeds planted in soil, but Wim Noorduin, currently a post-doc researcher at Harvard, prefers to craft bouquets using Barium carbonate and sodium metasilicate.
Science of beauty – This "flower" is the product of a chemical reaction and is the diameter of a single human hair.
A micro world – Two chemicals are dissolved in a glass beaker filled with water and as carbon dioxide seeps into the vessel it kickstarts a chemical reaction that creates a wonderland of micro-sculptures.
Sculpting through chemistry – Sculpting might be too strong a word, but Noorduin has become increasingly adept at controlling the outcome of his experiments by carefully manipulating variables.
Natural variety – Increasing carbon dioxide levels leads to expansive, leafy crystals.
Bouquet of roses – Changing the PH level of the solution results in rosette structures.
Unexpected result – While Noorduin's flowers are grown in a lab in exacting conditions, he's not above throwing a pinch of salt into the beaker to see what happens.
A nano-garden – Flowers can be grown on a variety of substrates and the texture of the surface impacts the resulting shape of the blooms.
Not just pretty – Beyond being the kind of gift that would set Amy Farrah Fowler's heart afire, Noorduin's nano-sized nosegays have serious applications in materials science research.
Otherworldly realm – "When zooming in using an electron microscope, you see that inside the beaker a vast landscape of complex sculpted microstructures has evolved in which you can get completely lost," says Noordin. "It really feels like you are diving in a sort of alien coral reef."
Enhancing color – The colors are beautiful, but come from Photoshop, not the chemical reaction.
As thin as a hair – Microfabrication techniques that build objects at impossible small scale have seen tremendous gains over the last decade, but researchers are bumping up against limits at molecular and nanoscales.