These blue "flowers" were grown in a laboratory at Harvard University using a solution of chemicals and minerals.
Building micro- and nano-size particles—some much smaller than the width of a human hair—is a huge field, since they have potential uses in optics and engineering, said Wim Noorduin, a researcher specializing in crystal growth at Harvard.
But the trick with Noorduin's technique, which he has taken years to perfect, is he can control the shapes of the structures as they're growing by changing the temperature, pH, and carbon dioxide content of his chemical solutions. (Related: "Pictures: Best Micro-Photos of 2012.")
Why We Love It
"While these flowers are pleasing to look at, it's the element of surprise upon discovering they are microscopic replicas that gets my attention. Petals shaped by controlled chemistry rather than the precision of human hands is artistry that captures my imagination."—Alexa Keefe, photography producer