Flowers turning to face the sun is a true wonder of nature – and now scientists have developed a lens that mimics the phenomenon.
The flower-like lens self-assembles from liquid crystals made up of tiny, rod-like molecules able to guide the passage of light.
They are sometimes able to act as lenses due to the fact that controlling the direction in which the rods point changes the way they steer light.
Randall Kamien and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia found that dropping a transparent silicon bead into the solution was key to its success, describing the process as “like an oyster, which lays down layers of nacre around a grain of sand to form a pearl”.
A flower-like bulge with a ring of “petals” is formed by the crystals and Kamien suggests its ability to work as a lens could one day be beneficial in uses such as solar panels or tiny cameras used in surgery.
Oleg Lavrentovich at Kent State University in Ohio believes any potential use is some way off, but added promisingly: “No one is sure at the moment what exactly this research result is good for, but it is definitely good for everything that involves soft matter.”
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