Hidden beauty of the nano-cosmos

October 12, 2011
Award-winning image: Many brushes made from carbon nanotubes are formed into a tower 500 nanometres in diameter by using a focused ion beam system. The scanning electron microscope is used to investigate how they behave under the effects of pressure.

When researchers receive prizes, it is usually to honour their scientific work. However, the photographs from the scanning electron microscope, taken by Siddhartha Pathak during his postdoctoral time at Empa in Thun, Switzerland, have already been recognised several times for their aesthetic value. This was the case again recently, this time at "NanoArt 2011", where he was awarded first prize.

It is possible to create real works of art simply from the series of points of an image. Siddhartha Pathak proved this more than once during his time as a postdoctoral researcher in Thun. While working in the "Mechanics of and " and "Advanced Materials Processing" laboratories, he frequently invested time creating visually appealing images from the objects of his study.

In his projects in the field of the micromechanics of materials, he pursued the question of how materials from the macro-world behave when they are shrunk to the micro and nanometre scale. Thus, using a focused ion beam system (FIB), he built towers 500 nanometres in diameter from a high-density carpet made of carbon nanotubes. During stress experiments, he wanted to discover at what pressure these buckle. Result: The towers withstand very high loads and are thus suitable candidates for energy-absorbing applications in micromechanical systems.

A tower made of carbon nanotubes following the stress test.

This resulted in fascinating pictures. It is amazing because an electron microscope first scans over the topographical conditions of virtually "blindly". From the "sensed" mountains and valleys, maps are then created by stringing together the points. The shapes produced invite "embellishment" with colours. Pathak understood how to conjure up eye-catching and appealing shapes from the black and white images. Johann Michler, Head of the " and Nanostructures" laboratory, said of his former employee: "I think it was his playful instinct and love of unusual ideas that drove him." Pathak also has the necessary sporting spirit to compete with others in this area. For this reason, he liked to take part in competitions where the hidden beauty of the nano-world was the subject.

Pathak and his colleagues have already won five prizes. Only recently, Pathak, who is currently at the "California Institute of Technology" and is researching the microscopic deformation mechanisms of materials for use in space under extreme conditions, managed to win first prize for one of his images in the international online competition "NanoArt21" What remains for science, however, is a different kind of prize, says Michler: "A good cover picture in a professional journal, on the other hand, can still be found in the annals of science for decades." Pathak has also been successful here. In 2010, one of his pictures made it onto the front cover of the professional journal Materials Today.

Explore further: To save lives, an Indian doctor rethinks the toilet

More information: www.nanoart21.org/

Related Stories

Silicon brittle? Not this kind!

October 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Silicon, the most important semiconductor material of all, is usually considered to be as brittle and breakable as window glass. On the nanometer scale, however, the substance exhibits very different properties, ...

Moving microscopic vision into another new dimension

June 29, 2011

Scientists who pioneered a revolutionary 3-D microscope technique are now describing an extension of that technology into a new dimension that promises sweeping applications in medicine, biological research, and development ...

FEI Introduces Nova NanoSEM

March 4, 2005

New System is the World's First SEM for Ultra-High Resolution Characterization of Non-Conductive or Contaminating Samples FEI Company released the newest member of its Nova(TM) family of SEM and DualBeam(TM) systems, the ...

ORNL microscope pushes back barrier of 'how small'

September 17, 2004

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers, using a state- of-the-art microscope and new computerized imaging technology, have pushed back the barrier of how small we can see--to a record, atom-scale 0.6 angstrom. ORNL, a ...

Exhibition showcases the 'art of science'

May 14, 2009

The online gallery for Princeton University's third Art of Science competition will go live Thursday, May 14, at noon EDT. An online site that allows members of the public to choose their favorite 2009 Art of Science image ...

Recommended for you

Quantum computing building blocks

July 24, 2017

For decades scientists have known that a quantum computer—a device that stores and manipulates information in quantum objects such as atoms or photons—could theoretically perform certain calculations far faster than today's ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 12, 2011
"I think it was his playful instinct and love of unusual ideas that drove him."

Fascinating images at the link

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.