British mathematician Alan Turing, perhaps most famous as the father of modern computing and a veteran of the World War II codebreaking centre at Bletchley Park, was also fascinated by how animals get their pigment patterns, the zebra its stripes, the leopard its spots, for instance. His chemical explanation of the emergence of such pelt patterns remains relevant today and has been extrapolated to other areas of animal development. Now, a collaboration between researchers in Denmark and Poland has revealed that the chaotic fluctuations of atoms and molecules can also give rise to Turing patterns on the nanoscopic scale. "So far, no-one has even studied the possibility of the formation of Turing patterns by single atoms or molecules. However, our results show that Turing nanostructures may exist. And since this is the case, we will be able to find very specific applications for them in nanotechnology and materials science," explains Bogdan Nowakowski of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
Nanoscopic Turing patterns