Quartz (SiO2) is the second most abundant mineral on Earth. Its ability to generate voltage in response to mechanical stress, known as the piezoelectric effect, also makes it one of the most useful minerals. It’s a crucial component in clocks and microprocessors, for example. Chemists, however, have had little success in miniaturizing the piezoelectric properties of quartz at the nanoscale. Now, Clemént Sanchez and Ádrian Carretero-Genevrier of the University of Pierre & Marie Curie, in Paris, and their colleagues report new synthetic methods for growing quartz crystals on silicon that produce thin films with piezoelectric properties (Science 2013, DOI: 10.1126/science.1232968). Such small-scale piezoelectric materials may be used to develop resonators or as elements of terahertz optics, the researchers say. The group’s synthesis involved the use of strontium or barium catalysts mixed with amphiphilic molecular templates, which allowed the crystallization of epitaxial quartz films while preserving porous structures.