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NNCI Image Contest 2023 - Whimsical

Most Whimsical

Artists in this category playfully used micro and nanoscale images as the foundation to build scenes. Please check out the images below and read a little about the research behind them. 


Peeping Cow

Peeping Cow
Artist: Manisha De Alwis Goonatilleke, Grad. Student, University of Kentucky
NNCI Site: KY Multiscale
Tool: FEI Talos F200X TEM
The image shows an composite energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) elemental map of alumina (Al2O3) on a SiNx in situ heating chip. The circular region is a hole on the heating chip which contains a C overlay on which the sample is deposited.

Self-Assembled Microrobot Structure on the Moon

Self-Assembled Microrobot Structure on the Moon
Artist: Lucas Hanson, Graduate student, School of Arts and Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania
Tool: Edmund Optics manual focus zoom lens .75 to 3x magnification, Thorlabs DCC1545M-GL USB CMOS camera
This is a side view micrograph of a self-assembled 3D structure made of approximately 20 solar powered electroplating microscopic robots.  When immersed in a solution of metallic ions, the robots grow metal on their bodies using light energy harvested with onboard solar cells.  As the metal grown by each robot reaches its neighbors, the growth fronts merge, forming bonds that fix the robots in place in the structure.  By tuning the rate at which the metal grows, the robots can assemble into structures with a variety of shapes.  When placed on a glass slide this cantilever-like structure resembles some space debris sitting on a lunar surface, with the only thing missing being a view of home.  Scale bar: 1mm.

Little Lung Buddies

Little Lung Buddies
Artist: Zach McAllister, graduate student, Chemical Engineering and Material Science, University of Minnesota
Tool: Nikon Eclipse 80i confocal fluorescent microscope
Every breath you take is made possible because of these little guys. These little guys (without the eyes) are images of lung surfactant, a molecularly thin layer which stabilizes the lung and makes breathing possible for you and me. We are happy to add faces to some of these "little lung buddies" that have kept us company over many imaging sessions! Sample captured via confocal fluorescent microscopy in the Zasadzinski Lab with an ICA2 lookup table filter applied. Sample composition was 9:1 (2:1 r:racDPPC):hexadecanol with 1.5 mol% dehydrocholesterol.

The big top goes micro

The Big Top Goes Micro
Artist: Madelyn Mettler
Tool: Zeiss SUPRA 55VP Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope
An astro-batic performance featuring an astronaut juggling bacteria. The image shows a fungal filament forming a tightrope that bacteria have attached to. Bacterial rods can also be seen in the image's background. The fungus and the bacteria were grown using isolates from the International Space Station wastewater tank. The research that resulted in the image includes testing material coatings for their ability to prevent biofilm growth for future implementation into spacecraft water recycle systems. This biofilm was grown on an uncoated Teflon surface serving as a control for the experiment.

Micro-Nano Angry Birds

Micro-Nano Angry Birds
Artist(s): Bipin Lade, (Postdoctoral Associate) and Ethan Franklin (Undergraduate Student), College of Science Academy of Integrated Science, Virginia Tech
NNCI Site: NanoEarth
Tool: JEOL IT-500HR analytical FEG SEM
The SEM image shows spherical microparticles composed of hematite nanoparticles in a pigment created from materials collected from acid mine waste drainage. Our laboratory specializes in nanoparticle synthesis and materials characterization using analytical instruments, including TEM, STEM, Raman, AFM, DLS, and XRD. We explore the formation of the smallest minerals, known as nanoparticles (NPs), their interactions with their surroundings, and their transformations over time in complex natural and environmental systems.

Lunar Serenity: Snowy Boughs Bathed in Moonlight

Lunar Serenity: Snowy Boughs Bathed in Moonlight
Artists: Karen Acurio (Graduate Student), Dr. Shudipto Dishari  (Associate Professor), University of Nebraska-Lincoln
NNCI Site: Nebraska Nanoscale Facility (NNF)
Tool: SEM, FEI Helios NanoLab 660
Moonlight cascades gently onto the snow-covered branches of a tree, casting a soft, ethereal glow. Snowflakes resting on the branches reflect the faint moonlight. The serene ambiance evokes a sense of peacefulness and stillness, creating a captivating and enchanting winter night's dream. Our research is dedicated to studying the self-assembly of macrocycles and cyclic oligomers, which are the particles shown as snowflakes in the image. The use of these self-assembled macrocyles aims to enhance interfacial and thin-film proton conductivity boosting the efficiency of proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), eco-friendly electrochemical devices.

Giant Cabbage

Giant Cabbage
Artists: Jack Almeter (Graduate Student) and James Loveless (Graduate Student), NC State University
NNCI Site: Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network (RTNN)
Tool: FEI Verios 460L (AIF, NC State)
This image depicts an overhead view of an attempt to epitaxially coalesce AlGaN over GaN ridges. Coalescence was not complete, resulting in trenches reminiscent of furrowed farmland. Rogue nucleation has occurred at one point, perhaps due to contamination or an irregularity in the pattern. This large crystallite has an organic shape, here imagined as a giant cabbage worthy of the NC State Fair. A pair of farmers, taken from "Farmer with a Pitchfork" and "Song of the Lark" by 19th century American painter Winslow Homer, marvel at the vegetable in the foreground.

The Chalcogenide Mural

The Chalcogenide Mural
Artist: Mikis Mays Jr., Grad Students, Georgia Institute of Technology
Tool: Olympus LEXT OLS4100 3D Confocal Microscope
“The Chalcogenide Mural” is an Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) sample that has been deposited onto soda-lime glass using the spin-coat fabrication methodology. The image has not been altered and no color enhancement was used. Thus, the stunning colors observed here are a function of film thickness. Although Indium Tin Oxide is transparent to the naked eye, due to a special phenomenon known as Bragg’s Law, the film scatters photons proportional to its thickness.

Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo
Artist: Fanrui Sha, Graduate student, Northwestern University
Tool: Hitachi SU8030 SEM
The image is of vanadium-based Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs), a type of porous, crystalline materials. Now, here's the twist: those funky particle shapes you see? They're actually a mix of MOF phases from the synthesis reaction – something we're working hard to avoid, but it sure makes for an interesting snapshot!

The Berry Land

The Berry Land
Artist: Elizabeth Zhang, grad student, Stanford
NNCI Site: nano@stanford
Tool: SEM
This image captures the solid electrolyte interphase that forms on copper foil after cycling in a lithium metal battery. Part of the copper surface is covered by round sphere features, which reminded me of berries. The berry land has a fairy tale theme, and paints an image of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) fallen in a forest. This image captures the moment of a cat stopping by to rest on one of the strawberries.

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