Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your nanogarden grow?
Harvard engineer Wim Noorduin has a green thumb. Only his thumb is only a few microns wide. By carefully controlling gradients of chemicals, he guided the construction of flower-like crystal structures to match their larger biological forms. It’s certainly art, but it also demonstrates a masterful manipulation of chemistry on the nano scale.
Just how small are they? As NPR reports, these flowers could fit in the lapel of the tiny Abraham Lincoln statue on the back of a penny (back when pennies had the Lincoln Memorial on them, anyway). These electron microscope images are false colored to recreate fantastic flowers, and these manipulations will one day help control the construction of useful microstructures.
If you’re seriously engineering-inclined, here’s the original research as it appears in Science.