Sunday, January 16, 2011

MRS Fall 2010 Science as Art Competition

Every year, in the spring and fall of the northern hemisphere, scientists from around the world congregate, like moths to a flame, for a lovein of sharing, learning and networking. Known as the Materials Research Society meetings, these biannual events have become a must attend for those in search of unbridled materials knowledge.

Beyond knowledge however, there is beauty and since 2006, this group of burly scientists have been devoting their time to the more aesthetically pleasing forms of their science. An event of science meets art, which has simply become known as the MRS Science as Art Competition.

These are the winners of the Material Research Societies, 2010 Fall, Science as Art Competition.

1st Place Winner | The silk collective | Konstantinos Tsioris, Tufts University
Materials Research sometimes takes us to materials that we know all too, until we dig a little deeper and take a closer look. This scanning electron microscopy image depicts the detail of a micro patterned silk surface, much like the silk produced by the larvae of the Bombyx mori aka silkworm. However this silk is man mad, fabricated with an all-aqueous micro moulding technique under ambient pressure at room temperature.

The research is performed in Prof. Fiorenzo Omenetto’s group (Ultrafast Nonlinear Optics and Biophotonics Laboratory) and is part of “the silk collective” at Tufts University.

1st Place Winner | Stem of nanoflowers | Abhishek Prasad, Michigan Technological University
This picture is created from a high resolution SEM image of zinc oxide "nanoflowers" synthesized by a physical vapor deposition technique.

Being a solid at room temperature, zinc oxide thus requires very high temperatures to turn it into vapour. This can be accomplished through various methods including lasers, electron bombardment or by a high power arc discharged at the target material.

When it does, like water, it wants to condensate on surfaces. It is then up to the researches to control where the vapour condensates. With control, researchers can build up the deposits of the zinc oxide to form elaborate patters, often for some special function. Here it's just pure aesthetics.

1st Place Winner | Rising Moon | Sedat Canli, Middle East Technical University
Tin Ball on KOH-etched silicon (Si) surface appears like the moon rising above silicon pyramids. KOH, also known as Potassium hydroxide has many industrial and niche applications, most of which exploit its reactivity toward acids and its corrosive nature. This corrosive nature is used to full effect in this etching process.

To control how the KOH degrades the silicon, a mask is applied before the KOH and the temperature adjusted so that the chemical reaction that is the etching does not happen too furiously. The correct temperature is required for a quick but clean etch. The mask that is applied resists the etching process, that is it does not react with the KOH and thus leaves behind areas of the silicon unaffected by the etch. This is a similar process to our silicon chips are created for use in computers where the etching process lays down paths on the silicon where current and information can flow.

This image was obtained using a scanning electron microscope at 16,100x magnification and was colourised using Adobe Photoshop.

Second Place Winners

2nd Place Winner | Surfacing Turtle | Philipp Hunger, Drexel University

2nd Place Winner | Grassland Sunrise | Yongjie Hu, Harvard University

2nd Place Winner | Aurora Zinc Oxide | Dong Chan Kim, Sungkyunkwan University

2nd Place Winner | SEM Chamber | Ernst Jan Vesseur, FOM Institute AMOLF
My favourite images are probably from the second place winners funnily enough, but perhaps that’s because I'm enjoying the aesthetics over the science a little too much ;). That's the beauty here, I really hope that these images, can stimulate the science and artist in everyone. Perhaps there will be artists that are inspired by these, as I know plenty are inspired by science.

If this is your first introduction to the MRS Science as Art competition, then see my previous post summarising past events and stay tuned for the Spring 2011 Science as Art Competition.

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