Complex crystal ‘flowers’ self-assemble with chemical manipulation

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Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have grown microscopic fields of flower-like structures made of crystals. Project lead Wim L. Noorduin and his colleagues were able to modify the growth of the crystals through tiny chemical alterations of a fluid containing water, liquid glass, and the salt barium chloride. Carbon dioxide from the air dissolved into the solution, forming solid barium carbonate crystals. “This precipitation happens spontaneously,” says Noorduin, but by controlling the amount of carbon dioxide that dissolves into the solution, the team was able to change the way the crystals formed. A high amount of carbon dioxide led to “broad, radiating leaves,” while low carbon dioxide levels could…

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