Carbon in Bloom

The big picture

Image: Paul Marshall

It looks like a single flower bud, but it’s actually an entire quick-growth forest with tens of millions of ”trees” in the cluster. You can’t see them, but each tree is a single-wall carbon nanotube, roughly 3 angstroms across and 2 millimeters tall, according to Paul Marshall, the researcher at the National Research Council of Canada, in Ottawa, who took second prize at Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition with this image. Although a single nanotube is too tiny for a 30X stereo microscope to resolve, particles that make up the forest’s canopy are visible in the photo. They are in a slightly liquid state, giving off energy as they solidify. That energy—and a special microscope attachment—is responsible for the wavy patterns, the balloonlike shape, and the bright, glowing colors.

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