First artificial microflowers burst into bloom in a few hours

(Image: RMIT-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology Research Centre)

Take that, nature. Tiny artificial flowers have now been created, and they take just 3 hours to bloom.

Developed by Sheshanath Bhosale from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and his team, the intricate structures take shape when two organic chemicals, a phosphonic acid and melamine, are mixed in water. The flower in the picture above is just 10 micrometres wide. It has been magnified 20,000 times and digitally coloured.

The flower’s early stages are shown below. The structure of the reacting chemicals, and the hydrogen bonds they form between them, cause the petal-like arrangement to grow on its own.

First artificial microflowers burst into bloom in a few hours

(Image: RMIT-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology Research Centre)

The complex surface provided by microflowers is gaining attention as it could be useful in a range of applications, including water-repellent coatings and materials that can detect explosives.

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Other mini self-assembling objects include flat shapes that autonomously fold up into boxes and amoeba-sized grippers that can manipulate microscopic beads, wires and tubes.

Journal reference: Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep14609

By Sandrine Ceurstemont

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