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UCLA Scientists Create Tiny, Wet Alphabet

UCLA scientists have created the world's least filling bowl of alphabet soup: billions of florescent microscale "LithoParticles" shaped like alphabet letters in a liquid solution.

UCLA scientists have created the world's least filling bowl of alphabet soup: billions of florescent microscale "LithoParticles" shaped like alphabet letters in a liquid solution.

"We have demonstrated the power of a new method, at the microscale, to create objects of precisely designed shapes that are highly uniform in size," said Thomas G. Mason, associate professor of chemistry at UCLA and a member of the university's California NanoSystems Institute, in a statement. "They are too small to see with the unaided eye, but with an optical microscope, you can see them clearly; the letters stand out in high fidelity. Our approach also works into the nanoscale."

Mason and his colleagues believe their research could lead to the development of tiny pumps, medically useful motors or containers, and security applications. In the meantime, the scientists are amusing themselves with what they describe as "a microscale version of the game Scrabble."

Using laser tweezers, UCLA chemistry graduate student James Wilking arranged the letters to show "UCLA." It's not clear whether the game progressed much beyond this.

Carlos J. Hernandez, a UCLA chemistry graduate student and lead author of the research, designed a custom font for the letters. According to Mason, just about any font could be replicated.

Research describing the process of creating the tiny polymer letters will be published March 29 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

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