Programs & Outreach

Science as Art

  MRS Foundation LogoAs a special feature of MRS meetings, we offer the popular Science as Art competitions with entry open to all registered meeting attendees. 

Visualization methods provide an important tool in materials science for the analysis and presentation of scientific work. Images can often convey information in a way that tables of data or equations cannot match. Occasionally, scientific images transcend their role as a medium for transmitting information and contain the aesthetic qualities that transform them into objects of beauty and art.

The galleries below represent some of the best entries from past meetings.

Copyright for these images belongs to the Materials Research Society. To request permission to reuse the images, please contact Anita Miller at

In addition, we invite you to view this video featuring some of the best entries from past MRS Science as Art competitions:

Science as Art Winners

2016 MRS Fall Meeting

A core-shell printed filament of gelatin in the outer shell and collagen in the core (credits: Katharina Kroll).   The human being is made of imperfection. An Australian dollar coated with an ultra-transparent superhydrophobic composite coating. Colored SEM image of the layered Ti2C MXene showing similarities to the face of Lord Voldemort, a character in Harry Potter movie series. SEM cross-section of a multi-layered perovskite solar cell assembled via spin-coating in which a dust particle resulted in the protrusion This photograph represents a snapshot of the dynamic response of a ferrofluid to an intricate magnetic field distribution over a silicon wafer. A 3D image of the inside of a charged Li-ion battery taken using MRI, showing regions of dendrites growing between two disc-shaped electrodes.

2016 MRS Spring Meeting

This picture shows an optical micrograph of binary polymer brushes. The pattern is composed of hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers - the former are swollen at increased humidity. The image shows silicone oil droplets that are bouncing indefinitely above a vibrating pool of silicone oil at 15 Hz. The surface waves generated by the droplets are analogous to quantum mechanical waves that guide the dynamics of quantum particles. In the morning, the green clovers wake up in the bright sunshine. This is from a high resolution SEM image of zinc oxide "nano-clovers" synthesized by chemical vapor deposition technique. Zinc oxide nanowalls electrodeposited on polished stainless steel electrode, imaged with SEM, color added in Adobe Photoshop. The beauties of nature has been reproduced by the orchestra of nucleation and growth. Iron oxide flowers of two micron in diameter have been grown in a hydrothermal reactor, followed by acetylene treatment enlivening the leaves. A STEM secondary electron image of Fe3O4 grown on a Tb-doped lanthanum phosphate microrod is depicted here as an octopus enveloping a submarine vessel.

2015 MRS Spring Meeting

Zinc oxide nanoflower structure synthesized by pulsed laser deposition technique A SEM image of holey graphene film. The film is made by 900°C treated polystyrene/graphene xxide free-standing film. Yanwen Yuan, Nanyang Technological University Andy Warhol's Nano-Guitar by Peter Reiss The Perovskite Sunflower by Son Tung Ha The Microcave by Magnus Jonsson

2015 MRS Fall Meeting

Polymer-grafted silica colloids dispersed in a solvent with a surfactant and drop cast onto a water interface forming colorful, micron-sized structures Optical microscopy image of uniaxially aligned domains of terthiophene under crossed polarizers. The alignment results from a thermal gradient annealing process. This is an SEM image [5.0kV] of nanostructured titania particles with various morphology. SEM image of an Aluminum drop suspended in an array of multi-walled carbon nanotubes synthesized by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technique. SEM imaging of PEDOT:PSS Conductive Scaffold. Colorized SEM image of ultra-long vanadium pentoxide nano-belt bundles synthesized by a hydrogen peroxide method. SEM image of crosslinked polyethylene glycol hydrogel resembles magna river flow within cave. A SEM image of CuO nanostructures. High symmetry dense packings of trees and lines in the two-dimensional hyperbolic plane can be projected to triply-periodic minimal surfaces. A red electrospun "heart" is trapped in the matrix of electrospun nanofibers of Poly[(R)-3-hydroxybutyrate-co-(R)-3-hydroxyhexanoate (PHBHx), a biodegradable and biocompatible "green" polyester fully synthesized by bacteria in plant oils. Sulfonated small molecular additives modify the surface topology of calcite. The variety of plateaus, craggy outcrops and mesas resembles a sunset scene from the Mojave. A scanning electron microscope image of novel straw-like architectures composed of highly uniform NiCo2O4 nanowires synthesized via a hydrothermal approach vividly demonstrates a party of numerous nano-scarecrows. Ferrofluids are colloidal liquids made of nanoscale ferromagnetic particles suspended in a carrier fluid. A SEM image of a polyimide cross-section prepared by focused ion beam.

2014 MRS Spring Meeting

Electrochemically overgrown CuNi nanopillars. This image is a scanning electron micrograph of ZnO nanorods epitaxially grown on a CuGaO2 nanoplate in aqueous solution. Atomic resolution TEM image of a porous Si nanowire surface morphology. Piezoresponse force microscopy image of the ferroelectric domain structure of hexagonal ErMnO_3. Dark and bright areas correspond to opposite out-of-plane directions of the polarization. Note the vortex-like meeting points of six domains False color SEM image of warring CaCO3 polymorphs showing the transformation of vaterite (left) to the more stable calcite (right) on the surface of a hierarchical mineral tube grown from a gel-liquid interface. FIB section of a silicon nanowires carpet.

2014 MRS Fall Meeting

SEM image of electrospun core-shell fibers containing self-healing agents deposited on steel A scanning electron microscope image of composite particles comprised of self-assembled silica nanoparticles and polybutadiene. Scanning Electron Microscopy image taken for assembly of iron oxide nanoparticles in the magnetic fields. 2 day in vitro hippocampal neurons drop-plated on superhydrophobic nanostructured silicon devices clustered before die looking for nutrients and oxygen. “A Rose by Any Other Name…” is an SEM image of complex ZnO meso-crystals synthesized through a solvothermal process. Contribution from Taha Rostamzadeh, Korosh Mahmoodi, and John B. Wiley SEM image of a micro-pillar designed for microcompression testing of nanocrystalline Ni-W alloy viewed from the top. The pillar was made with an automated lathe milling technique using a Focused Ion Beam microscope.

2013 MRS Spring Meeting

The "Hedgehog" particles with nano-scale corrugation are sculpted by interfacial growth of rigid ZnO nanowires on polymeric microspheres. Zinc-doped tin oxide nano-flowers grown by hydrothermal method. An SEM image of a thin-sheet network composed of doped aniline oligomers. The aggregated sheets in the upper right corner forms a cluster that mimics the look of a flower, whereas other flexible sheets represents leaves and stems. Organic nanowires with inorganic nanoparticles coating. A composite of three scanning electron microscope images taken at different focal lengths of a carbonized silicon nanowire array. A serendipitous pattern of high-performance organic semiconductor crystal thin films. Unexpected crystals of iron sulfides by Scanning Electron Microscopy. This is a Scanning Tunneling Microscopy image of Au induced nanowires on a Ge(001) substrate, recorded at temperature 77 K in ultra-high vacuum (UHV) conditions.

2013 MRS Fall Meeting

Solution cast poly-1,8-octanedithiol crystals. Scanning electron microscopy image of a 50 micrometer high self-assembled micro-flower made from barium carbonate and silica. A scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of GaAs substrate cleavage plane after nanowire growth. The hill and cliff structures result from imperfect alignment with the cleavage plane orientation while cleaving the substrate. A piece of debris on a sample covered with MBE-grown InAs nanowires. Seen with the electron microscope. Growth of BiFeO3 in an alumina crucible (scanning electron microscopy image) Scanning electron microscopy of a cracked inverse opal scaffold used in microbattery electrodes. TEM image of cobalt-doped iron phosphide nano-urchins grown bysolution-phase synthesis and restored to their natural habitat bycomputational methods. A family portrait of magnetic droplets. The image is a composite photograph of ferrofluid droplets on a superhydrophobic surface at varying magnetic field strengths. The "eyes" are reflections from two lamps.

2012 MRS Spring Meeting

Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image depicts a baby giraffe formed within a jungle of Ni-Al-C dendrites. Looking into the dark forest of GaAs/GaInP nanowires imaged by SEM. The nanowires were grown in two steps: first the GaAs stem using a Au particle as seed particle in MOVPE. A stunning visual pattern of high-performance organic semiconductor crystals obtained using cross-polarized optical microscopy. Spring is here! False color SEM image of carbon nanotube pillars synthesized by cappilography. Colorized SEM image showing arrays of baked cupcakes through self-assembly of colloidal “sprinkles” onto the surface of premade cupcakes. SEM image taken after a failed evaporation of Cu metal onto a patterned Si wafer. Technique: SEM image, the GeTe nanostructure was synthesised by CVD method.

2012 MRS Fall Meeting

Scanning electron micrograph of spherical carbon particles, prepared at high temperature and pressure, mimics the galaxy. Colorized SEM image of ZnO crystallites blooming on the surface of single crystalline hexage of gold. The gold plate is obtained through solution-based thermolysis. The ZnO is nucleated and grown through a 2-step solution synthesis. The collage shows two false color SEM images. The ZnS spacecraft (~20 um in length) predominantly consists of hexagonal platelets, which are obtained by thermal decomposition of a molecular source under solvothermal conditions. Screw dislocation network formed in a (0001) / [0001] twist grain boundary in an alumina bicrystal. The network consists of hexagonal units due to the three-fold symmetry about the c-axis, and the size of each unit is about 50nm. 2-D Ti3C2 layers were produced by etching Al from Ti3AlC2, a member of the ternary transition metal carbides called MAX Phases. Given its similarities with graphene, we labled it "MXene." Photograph depicting ferrofluid-coated tape grippers as they close underwater and await collection by a permanent magnet.

2011 MRS Spring Meeting

The "Nano Graveyard" is a thin film of tin (II) sulfide prepared by a solution method with post-annealing and was imaged using scanning electron microscopy at a low incidence angle. Nano Flower made of zinc oxide, Scanning electron microscope image of zinc oxide nanowire arrays with flower-like form. Water soluble salts have deliquescent points (i.e. a relative humidity above which they begin to dissolve in the moisture that is adsorbed on their surfaces). SEM image of hydrothermally grown ZnO nanostructure on the sintered Ag nanoparticles. I was supposed to grow ZnO nanowire, but I applied too much power which in turn caused a bubble. The SEM image is of titanium dioxide (anatase) film with surface texture. Colorized scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of silver dendrites created through a fast reduction of silver nitrate (AgNO3) in the presence of citrate. The as-obtained silver flowers possess large surface area as well as high catalytic activity. This is an scanning electron micrograph of a copper oxide microflower which was electrochemically deposited on a titanium dioxide layer. The length of the central petal in the flower is ca. 12µm. This picture is created from the convergence of a high resolution a plan view SEM image of the zinc oxide "nanowall & nanowire structures" synthesized by metal-organic chemical vapor deposition. Color was added to the original image. An SEM image of MnO2 nanowires grown on top of a piece of Manganese by a CVD process. This is an Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) image of an anode used in lithium ion batteries. This particular sample consist of 95% pure semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes.

2011 MRS Fall Meeting

Made by capillary self assembly of carbon nanotubes Block copolymer lamellae self-assembled in thin films recreate the distinctive brush strokes of Post-Impressionist paintings. The uniformly-dispersed "autumn leaves" are anatase TiO2 nanorods self-assembled to form bundles of dendrites. The leaves are embedded on a substrate of congregated nanocubic structures in the form of tausonite SrTiO3 crystallites. False-color scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image depicts a “NanoGarden” made of CuO nano flowers and Cu(OH)2 nanowires. These four micropillars put their heads together for a quick meeting among a crowd of onlookers. The pillars are made of the silicone material, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), and each one is approximately 60 micrometers tall and 15 micrometers in diameter. Collection of scanning electron micrographs of tantalum trisulfide (TaS3) prepared by the vapor transport of sulfur onto tantalum substrates. The trees and grass were represented by the SEM image of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) after field emission (FE) experiments. The CNTs were synthesized by chemical vapor deposition method and were uniformly oriented towards a metal plate. Optical micrograph of a spin-coated lead zirconate titanate (PZT) thin-film on silicon showing the effects of interference fringes, dust particles, and stress cracking. A researcher enters the nano cave and discovers a hidden cobra chameleon lurking in the shadows. Is this a new version of H.G.Wells’ “Wars of the Nanoworlds”? This image is based on one single SEM image which was slightly colorized using Adobe Photoshop. When the layered ternary compound, Ti3AlC2, is placed in hydrofluoric acid, the Al layers are selectively etched away resulting in two dimensional (2-D) layers of Ti3C2 weakly bonded to each other. Image is a spherical nanoindentation tip at a magnification of 8000x taken in an SEM, edited in Photoshop. The picture shows a photograph of organic light-emitting diodes. By combining different emitting molecules every color can be obtained. The picture "It's Christmas Everywhere" shows ZnO nanorods grown on an AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy) cantilever and is obtained by SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) technique.