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Scientists get artful

Page history last edited by frogheart@... 15 years, 10 months ago

Art and nanotechnology are entwined in both expected and unexpected ways. Visual art is important to nanotechnology as it gives us a way to imagine what is happening at a scale where our senses cannot truly be extended. Also, art and nanotechnology intersect in the area of art conservation where nanotechnology makes new techniques possible.


Pretty flowers

The images that scientists access are usually reproduced in simple black and white (for examples under Jump joints, click on Scientists get whimsical and/or Scientists get fashionable).


(Copyright 2004 Ghim Wei Ho and Professor Mark Welland) For

permission and licensing info., see Copyright and permissions.


"This is a 3-dimensional Si [silicon] composite nanostructure taken with a scanning electron microscope by Ghim Wei Ho. Images color modified using the colour balance function in Adobe Photoshop."[1] This describes the work required to turn the image into a piece of 'nano art' but it leaves out the details about obtaining the image in the first place. (For the details about a painstaking and tricky process, under Jump joints, click on See me, feel me.)



Discovering new colours

The conservators at the Art Institute of Chicago got a surprise when they recently examined Winslow Homer's 1887 watercolor, 'For to be a Farmer's Boy'. The pale white skies of the painting showed evidence of unstable red and yellow dyes. The conservators used a new-to-art-conservation technique, x-ray fluorescent spectrometry, a technology that allows conservators to examine artwork at the nanoscale with minimal to no damage.


Winslow Homer, For to be a Farmer's Boy (1887)

Watercolor with touches of scraping over graphite,

on cream woven paper, 355 x 509 mm. The Art

Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mrs. George T. Langhorne,

in memory of Edward Carson Waller. For permission

and licensing info., see Copyright and permissions.


Richard Van Duyne, then a chemist at Northwestern University, developed the technique in 1977. Van Duyne's technology, based on Raman spectroscopy which has been around since the 1920s, is called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy' or SERS "[and] uses laser light and nanoparticles of precious metals to interact with molecules to show the chemical make-up of a particular dye."[2]  (To see an animation of the painting in its original colours, from Leaving the mysteries, click on Art Institute of Chicago, scroll down the page to access the animation.)


Jump back

Artful Nano


Jump joints

Scientists get fashionable

Scientists get whimsical

See me, feel me


Leaving the mysteries

Art Institute of Chicago


  1. Ho, Ghim Wei and Welland, Mark. (2008?). [Description of nano bouquet]. Nanovida, Nanopicture Gallery. [Online caption] (Accessed June 11, 2008 from http://www.nanovida.com/nano-picture-gallery.shtml)
  2. AZoNano.com (June 11, 2008) Scientists using Nanotechnology Techniques to Learn More About Old Master Artworks. [Online article] (Accessed June 11, 2008 from http://www.azonano.com/news.asp?newsID=6560)

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