Gaming the Life – Chengyue Plantations

February 21, 2010

Self-Assembling Polymers, And Other Best Science Images Of The Year

Filed under: Chemistry — lordapple @ 8:49 pm

The National Science Foundation has announced the winners of its 2009 “Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge,” and there are some seriously gorgeous, weird pictures in the mix. More details from HERE.

First Place in Photography: Save Our Earth. Let’s Go Green
Credit: Sung Hoon Kang, Joanna Aizenberg, and Boaz Pokroy, Harvard University

Noodlelike fibers stretch to latch onto a green sphere. Alone each fiber is powerless, but together they grip and support the orb, embodying cooperation at a microscopic scale. This electron microscope photograph catches self-assembling polymers in action, but it could also represent people’s cooperative efforts to save Earth, says materials scientist Joanna Aizenberg of Harvard University. “Each hair represents a person or an organization,” she says. “It shows our collaborative effort to hold up the planet and keep it running.”

Aizenberg and her colleagues design self-assembling polymers in hopes of creating energy-efficient materials. They have snapped many similar photos of micrometer-scale cooperation. This image shows hairlike fibers of epoxy resin assembling around a polystyrene sphere, which is about 2 micrometers in diameter.

Honorable Mention in Illustration: Back to the Future
Credit: Mario De Stefano, Antonia Auletta, and Carla Langella, The 2nd University of Naples

Nature has been building microscopic cellular solar panels for almost 200 million years. So let’s follow her lead, says marine biologist Mario De Stefano of the Second University of Naples in Italy. De Stefano and his collaborators have been studying diatoms, microscopic algae, and they believe the organisms’ cellular structures could inspire the design of solar panels. This illustration demonstrates the principles of biomimeticism, which involves looking “to natural organisms to see our future,” De Stefano says. In the foreground, a scanning electron microscope image shows the blue fans of diatom colonies from the species Licmophora flabellata that have attached themselves to a sand grain with a long, gelatinous anchor, called a peduncle. Each cell is a flat wedge with a glasslike wall shaped to maximize its surface area and absorb sunlight more efficiently for photosynthesis. Behind the sand grain, the team presents computer drawings of their bio-inspired solar panels, which would stand 3 meters tall with a span of 50 meters. De Stefano and his collaborators have started building these panels and believe that they could be used to create solar-powered street lamps.

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