Tiny crystal flower blooms in a furnace.
(Image: Chun Li, Liang Huang, Gayatri Pongur Snigdha and Linyou Cao, North Carolina State University)
A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but it's unlikely to be this small. This beautifully intricate flower-like structure has petals only 20 to 30 nanometres thick - making the world's smallest orchid look like a triffid.
Linyou Cao at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and colleagues made it out of germanium sulphide dust. They weren't interested in nanohorticulture so much as finding a way to boost the capacity of the next generation of energy storage devices, such as lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. Germanium sulphide is a semiconductor material, and the tiny crystalline bloom's promise is due to its relatively enormous surface area packed into a tiny space. The material is also good at absorbing sunlight and converting it into usable power, making this little flower a potential solar cell-Via Newscientist.
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