Sand grains help make complex lenses: Study

New York, Dec 28: Spider-Man fan? Then you surely remember the transformation of Flint Marko, an escaped convict, into shape-shifting sand in the third Spider-Man outing.

In the real world though, a team of material scientists, chemical engineers and physicists have now successfully grown liquid crystal flowers – resembling insect eyes – out of sand granules that could be used as complex lenses.

Not just this. This unique technique could help produce complex dragonfly-like eyes containing millions of spherical lenses that are easier, faster and cheaper to achieve.

The team of scientists used silica beads, which are basically polished grains of sand, and planted in a pool of transparent liquid crystal.

They then generated patterns of petal-shaped bumps that look like flowers but function as lens, said the study published in the journal Physical Review.

The new findings are seen as a step towards making “directed assembly” – a new nanotech dream when all the complex, tiny parts can just manufacture themselves – possible.

The research was led by Randall Kamien, physics and astronomy professor; Kathleen Stebe, chemical and biomolecular engineering professor; Shu Yang, professor of materials science, engineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Daniel Beller, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Shu Yang also suggested that lens construction could be incorporated into futuristic metamaterials such as an acoustically invisible cloak. This type of directed assembly could be useful in making optical switches and in other applications.

IANS