June 10, 2010
Xu-Ting Roots Looking like tree roots, this captivating band of features was produced by placing an electric field across the surface of a thin polymer film, causing the surface of the film to become unstable, forming a wave pattern on the surface that grows as time passes. Eventually a band of lines is seen that resemble the roots of a tree. This image was captured in an optical microscope. The colors arise from light reflecting off the surface of the polymer and the underlying support. The colors tell you what the thickness of the film is, and so, the contour of the surface can be directly measured. In this image, the roots appear to be shooting across the field of view. More about this ImageThis imagery provides a unique avenue by which an interest and appreciation of scientific research can be nurtured. It is precisely this concept that underpins VISUAL (Ventures in Science Using Art Laboratory), a recently launched educational outreach program of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Polymers (MRSEC) (supported by the National Science Foundation's Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. VISUAL is based on the premise that the visual arts can serve as an effective means to stimulate, educate and promote materials science research to the general public and to students of all ages.