Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nanotechnology and Art

(The symbol for Disney World's Epcot Center is a geodesic dome
inspired by the design by Buckminster Fuller)
Although seemingly an unrelated subject, the study of art influences and holds presence in almost all aspects of the field of nanotechnology. At first a theoretical field of study, nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on the nanoscale, was not realized as a science until the discovery of buckminsterfullerine and the creation of the scanning tunneling microscope. Discovered with the aid of artistic inspiration, the buckyball, or buckminsterfullerine, was named after the author and architect Buckminster Fuller. After realizing the newly discovered carbon allotrope shared a similar design to Fuller's geodesic domes, synthesizers Kroto, Curl, and Smally named the compound after the architect. Although design is the major contribution art has on nanotechnology, nanotechnology has contributed to art with the other founding aspect of nanotech, the scanning tunneling microscope. The first of its kind to produce digital images through physical touch rather than light reflection, the invention of the scanning electron microscope allows scientists to visualize, otherwise invisible, nano particles and molecules. Similar to how painters and photographers capture the world around them, the scanning electron microscope has added a new dimension to art in that it can capture the microscopic nano-world.
(Box Office hit Big Hero 6 includes a theoretical application of nanotechnology in which micro robots can self assemble themselves into larger ordered structures)
Although a relatively new field of study, the list of possible applications of nanotechnology is endless. In fact, creative theories about the possible uses for nanotechnology have already shown up in art and pop culture. In Disney's Big Hero 6 the main character and boy genius Hiro Hamada invents microscopic robots called microbots that can self assemble themselves into any structure the controller desires. The microscopic size and idea of self- assembly are both ideas that originate from the real world study of nanotechnology.
(picture of the compound molybdenum disulfide, my TA's
samples (not pictured) have artistic designs on the triangular
face, created by nanotechnology)
With regard to my own experience, during fall quarter I was given the opportunity to tour my chemistry TA's research lab in which he specializes in hetero- integrated nanostructures. Specifically, my Jonathan was synthesizing a conducting compound of molybdenum disulfide to replace the silicon computer chip. Jonathan explained that silicon's large atomic size presents limitations to silicon computer chip speeds. Further, Jonathan designed his molybdenum disulfide compounds to look like the zelda triforce symbol from the popular video game. Unknowingly, Jonathan was demonstrating the integration of nanotechnology and art in his research.

Works Cited
"Buckminsterfullerene: Molecule of the Month." Buckminsterfullerene: Molecule of the Month. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.

"Duan Research Group." Duan Research Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.

"The Story of Buckminster Fuller's Radical Geodesic Dome." BBC. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.
Gimzewski,James narr. “Nanotech and Art Lectures 1-6” N.p., . web. 5 Nov 2012.

"Self-assembly." Nanotechnology. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.

"The Story of Buckminster Fuller's Radical Geodesic Dome." BBC. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.

Photo links

1 comment:

  1. The geometric shapes/patterns your TA made using nanotechnology looks amazing! I loved how you talked about Big Hero 6; I didn't even realize they were using some form of nanotechnology in the movie.