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Educating with Art

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2009
David L. Shenkenberg,

Although there currently is a $50 billion global market for nanotechnology products, a 2007 poll found that 70 percent of Americans know “just a little” or “nothing at all” about nanotechnology.

Some scientists are trying to increase awareness about nanotechnology through art. One of those scientists, A. John Hart of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has produced tiny works of art ranging from abstract depictions of flamingos to realistic portraits of President Barack Obama.

A. John Hart and colleagues made each portrait of Obama using 150 million carbon nanotubes, approximately the number of Americans who voted in the 2008 election.

Hart, who has no formal artistic training, said, “I was simply intrigued by the beauty of small-scale objects, particularly self-organized microstructures of carbon nanotubes.” He and his colleagues use chemical vapor deposition to grow the nanotubes, various techniques to make the structures, and electron and optical microscopy to record images of the structures.

Hart said that he plans to sell high-quality prints and selected samples of the structures and that most of the proceeds will support nanotechnology education and outreach. For more information and images, see Hart’s Web site:

chemical vapor depositionLighter SideMicroscopynanotechnology productsoptical microscopy

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