Everything we do in science is always predictable, right? It always comes out the way we plan it. Put it on a piece of paper and it happens? WRONG! Most of the time science is just that: science, research, you set things up and you hope for things to work.
This image shows an unexpected result from an experiment— clusters of gold nanostructures shaped like tiny trees.
Sometimes things work in unexpected ways. Take this picture for example. Looks like a bunch of trees, maybe tiny trees, maybe a tiny forest, maybe with tiny bears. WRONG! Those little trees are gold nanowires capped with blobs of gold on top. The trunks are only about 1.5 nanometers in size.
Gold is used as a catalyst to “grow” different kinds of nanowires. The gold takes atoms of silicon out of a gas and starts to build wires made of silicon. The process is called “chemical vapor deposition.” As the wire gets longer, the gold, which started off on the surface, gets pushed up. Kind of like a tree growing, except the tree grows from the gold “seed.”
Green trees with brown trunks? Not exactly. At the nanometer scale there is no color since these objects are smaller than the wavelength of visible light. The picture, taken with a very powerful electron microscope, was colorized by a very creative scientist hoping that you might imagine they were nanometer-sized trees.
“Synthesizing new nanomaterials is like cooking, only you have to use completely new ingredients and tools. You never quite know what’s going to come out the first time—but with practice we manage some pretty gourmet dishes.” – Tom Picraux