This image shows two materials sandwiched together. The bottom layer is a rubbery gel; it expands when heated and shrinks when cooled. The top layer is incredibly thin glass.
Materials scientists heat the gel to extremely hot temperatures (392 degrees Fahrenheit) and then create a thin layer of glass on the surface. As the gel shrinks it pulls the glass sheet into a wrinkly pattern. The glass ridges ripple in yellow; the darker spots are the valleys in-between.
This sandwiching process was invented at Northwestern University to develop new, microscopic instruments and tools. When perfected, this method results in tiny rubber pyramids tipped with fine glass points. The pyramids act like quill pens with built-in shock absorbers -- pens which write with single molecules or nano-particles for ink. Tools like these help nanoparticle researchers with more precise, more delicate maneuvers as they begin to study ever smaller aspects of material design.
Department of Materials Science & Engineering
Tools & Techniques: Optical Microscope + colored in Photoshop