representations of flowers and trees that are a fraction of the
width of a human hair have been created by scientists in Cambridge,
The nano-sized plants are "grown" from tiny droplets of the
liquid form of the metal gallium on a silicon surface.
The scientists then expose the droplets to a gas containing
methane and a reaction causes the gas to condense to form tiny wires
of silicon carbide.
The images appear in the Institute of Physics journal
By varying the temperature and pressure of the growth process the
wires can be fused together to form a variety of complex shapes in
the range of 1-5 microns (millionths of a metre).
The images were taken by Ghim Wei Ho, a postgraduate student in
nanotechnology at the University of Cambridge.
Professor Mark Welland of Cambridge's Nanotechnology Centre said
the nano-wires might have a number of applications.
are currently being explored are their use as water repellent
coatings and as a base for a new type of solar cell," he explained.
"We have already shown that as a coating, water droplets roll off
these surfaces when they are tilted at angles as small as five
"This behaviour is a direct consequence of the ability of such
nano-structured surfaces to strongly repel water."
The photos won a recent photography competition within
Cambridge's department of engineering.