Argonne/UChicago image takes first prize in Visualization Challenge

Argonne National Laboratory’s Seth Darling and the University of Chicago’s Steven Sibener took first place in the photography category of the 2010 Science/National Science Foundation International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Darling and Sibener’s image, taken with an atomic force microscope, adorns the cover of the Feb. 18 issue of Science and is featured in a special section of the publication. The annual Visualization Challenge promotes “cutting-edge efforts to visualize scientific data, principles and ideas,” wrote NSF’s Jeff Nesbit and Science’s Colin Norman in their introduction to the special section.

The challenge attracted 111 entries in four categories, including illustration, informational graphics and non-interactive media, from 63 countries and 23 U.S. states.

Darling, PhD’02, a scientist in Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, and Sibener, UChicago’s Carl William Eisendrath Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry and the James Franck Institute, titled their entry “Rough Waters.” While the false-color image resembles agitated oceanic waves, it actually shows two similar but non-mixing types of synthetic molecules arranging themselves in a single layer on a gold surface.

This stylized image is a snapshot of the molecular-level behavior that is helping Darling and Sibener to understand more clearly how molecules organize themselves in films.