A team of material scientists, chemical engineers and physicists has successfully grown liquid crystal flowers 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.
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.