Flowers that are actually Microscopic Crystals.
They look for all the world like a collection of flowers bursting into life. Yet in fact, these are microscopic crystals grown in a Harvard laboratory. Measuring just microns across, they were created to assemble themselves a molecule at a time.
The team say the work, carried out on glass slides, is able to control the process of crystal growth so precisely it can create curved and delicate shapes, that don't resemble the cubic or jagged forms normally associated with crystals.
By simply manipulating chemical gradients in a beaker of fluid the team was able to create different "flowers". The shape of the crystals depends on a reaction of compounds that are diffusing through a liquid solution. The crystals grow toward or away from certain chemical gradients as the pH of the reaction shifts back and forth.
It is not unusual for chemical gradients to influence growth in nature; for example, delicately curved marine shells form from calcium carbonate under water, and gradients of signaling molecules in a human embryo help set up the plan for the body.
The precipitation happens spontaneously, but if you want to change something then you can just manipulate the conditions of the reaction and sculpt the forms while they're growing.
Increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide, for instance, helps to create 'broad-leafed' structures. Reversing the pH gradient at the right moment can create curved, ruffled structures.
Noorduin and his colleagues have grown the crystals on glass slides and metal blades; they've even grown a field of flowers in front of President Lincoln's seat on a one-cent coin.
When you look through the electron microscope, it really feels a bit like you're diving in the ocean, seeing huge fields of coral and sponges, describes Noorduin. Sometimes I forget to take images because it's so nice to explore.
Harvard biologist Howard Berg has shown that bacteria living in colonies can sense and react to plumes of chemicals from one another, which causes them to grow, as a colony, into intricate geometric patterns.
Thanks to WiscoDave for sending in
this Weird and Wonderful Link ;-)