Nanowire Hay Bales

This week at the annual meeting of the Amer­ican Phys­ical Society, a group of North­eastern sci­en­tists will present the Monet painting of the future. This pile of hay bales is not a close up of a lost classic from the impres­sionist master’s late-​​nineteenth cen­tury haystack series. Instead, it’s a close-​​up of mag­netic nanowires. Pegah M. Hos­sein­pour, a third year PhD stu­dent in the depart­ment of chem­ical engi­neering, added iron to stan­dard tita­nium nan­otubes giving them mag­netic, semi-​​conducting, and cat­alytic properties.

Prop­erly engi­neered, these mate­rials hold promise for poten­tial appli­ca­tion in devices to effi­ciently absorb and transfer solar energy or to process data with increased speed, pre­ci­sion and accu­racy,” says Hosseinpour.

This image is fea­tured in the APS image gallery, along with another nan­otube mas­ter­piece from the team: A nano-​​scale “Devil’s post­pile.” (A beau­tiful geo­log­ical for­ma­tion in Cal­i­fornia made up of columnar basalt, which forms when a lava flow shrinks in the hor­i­zontal direc­tion as it rapidly cools.)

These ——————> are also iron-​​doped tita­nium nanowires, but here the scale is even smaller (about 2 orders of mag­ni­tude smaller than the hay bales above).

I love that the folks over at APS rec­og­nize how lovely a pretty pic­ture can be, even more so with a beau­tiful sci­en­tific story lurking behind it. This makes me wonder about the sci­en­tific story behind Monet’s haystacks…there must be one, right?

Nano-​​photos by Pegah M. Hos­sein­pour; Post­pile photo: Mike Baird, “Devils Post­pile National Mon­u­ment U.S. National Park Ser­vice” October 16, 2011 via Flickr, Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion.