‘Art imitates Nature’ is a very common phrase and practice; a lot of examples indicate the truth behind it. However, Latika Menon made a mind-blowing discovery, when she was studying something under the electron microscope, that Nature imitates Art.
Menon belongs to the eastern region of India, and therefore, she was not much familiar with the cultural dance, Bhavai pot dance, originated from Rajasthan. This pot dance is where the dancer places a stack of pots on their heads and dances away gracefully. Now, to connect the dots, Menon and her team, in their lab at Northeastern University, invented gallium nitride nanowires, and somehow, these had an uncanny resemblance to the pots.
Not only that, but more cultural references started coming in later. Eugen Panaitescu, for example, also saw Romania’s famous Endless Column, somewhere in the design of these nanowires. These nanowires, however, not only have the obvious aesthetic appeal, but also the common utility of the material, being used in several technologies. It can also be used in high-frequency communication devices and magnetic semiconductors, among others.
However, these are advanced applications and it could’ve only been possible to use this material if its growth could have been on the nanoscale. “That there is very little implementation of nanowire technology in electronics or optical devices is due to the fact that it’s very hard to control their shape and dimensions,” she said. That’s what Menon achieved in her lab with her team, by controlling the shape and the growth of this material.
The ‘macroscopic techniques’, as named by Panaitescu, are used by Menon to create nanoscale materials. These techniques are making the materials not only scalable but also inexpensive. “We just control a few parameters and then leave it, let it do its natural thing,” she explained heartily.