While the ability to grow something can be very valuable, it is also important to be able to manipulate that growth. Such control will allow the properties of the material to be tuned for any needs. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have recently discovered how to affect the diameter of silica rods, which could impact a variety of optics-related technologies.
To gain control over the silica rods, the researchers considered how Nature is able to affect the growth of organisms within it. Some growth is determined by genetics but some is also impacted by the environment, and so the researchers decided to investigate how environmental conditions can alter the growth of silica rods. They found that while the length of time spent incubating the rods determined their length it is temperature that determines the diameter of the rods. The researchers suggest this could be because of how temperature affects the size of the droplets to form the silica rods.
The reason technologies that relate to optics, such as solar cells, monitors, televisions, glasses, and more could be impacted by this discovery is that vertically-aligned silica rods can be used to alter the refractive index of a surface. By controlling the silica rods, the changes to the refractive index can also be controlled.
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory