A digitally-coloured microflower magnified 20,000 times.
A digitally-coloured microflower magnified 20,000 times.

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed artificial microflowers that self-assemble in water and mimic the natural blooming process. The distinctive surfaces of these flower-shaped structures could prove of use in a range of fields, including catalysis, non-wetting materials, explosives detection, magnetic materials, biomedicine and optoelectronics.

The team from the RMIT-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology Research Centre has for the first time developed microstructures shaped like flowers that assemble through self-repeating arrangement in water. They produced the flower-shaped structures by mixing two organic components (naphthalene diimide-bearing phosphonic acid and melamine) in water, which they then evaporate away. The artificial microflowers take about three hours to fully develop, mimicking the way natural flowers bloom.

Lead investigator Sheshanath Boshanale said the field of organic flower-shaped morphology was still in its infancy. “This is the first time flower-shaped microforms have been developed in a water solution, opening an exciting new pathway for further research,” he said.

“The artificial blooms developed by our team are just 10µm wide – about 10 could fit along the width of a strand of human hair. While tiny, they have potential to make a big impact by enabling researchers to easily and reliably build microflowers and use them to break frontiers in a range of scientific fields.”

The research is published in Scientific Reports.

This story is adapted from material from RMIT University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.