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November 13th, 2008

Nanobamas – symbolic solutions to tough problems?

Published on November 13th, 2008 | By: pwray@ceramics.org
Microscopic faces of Barack Obama made with nanotechnology.

Microscopic faces of Barack Obama made with nanotechnology.

Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the microscopic faces of Barack Obama (shown above) that University of Michigan professor John Hart has created using carbon nanotubes, optical and scanning electron microscope. One has to wonder, however, if Hart’s creations are meant to convey a symbolic message – like the potential that both nanotechnology and the new president offer for finding solutions to some of today’s toughest economic, environmental, health and energy-related problems. While the symbolism question goes unanswered, Hart is quick to tell the world how he created the microscopic faces of Obama. In fact, he’s created a “how-to” website that provides a step-by-step guide for producing the images shown above and other images as well. Hart explains that each face is comprised of about 150 million carbon nanotubes – approximately the number of Americans who voted on Nov. 4th, he says. (We told you symbolism was at play!)

Hart grows the CNTs by a high-temperature chemical reaction, using patterns of nanoscale metal catalyst particles arranged in the shapes of faces, flags, text, etc.  He describes the millions of parallel nanotubes comprising each image as a “forest of trees” standing vertically on their substrates. If each nanotube was a real tree measuring one foot in diameter, Hart says, it would be growing at over 500 miles per hour – and, yet, each nanobama face is only about 0.5 millimeters wide or approximately “ten times as wide as a human hair.” Check it out – Hart’s site does a great job of creating public awareness and a better understanding of nanotechnology. Further, the site’s message comes across loud and clear. Public and private support of research and education programs are absolutely necessary, he says, to enable new technologies – such as nanotechnology – to continue making “breakthroughs in energy, medicine, communications and other vital areas.”

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One Response to Nanobamas – symbolic solutions to tough problems?

  1. Professor Dale E. Wittmer says:

    Why is Dr. Hart using taxpayer money for this political purpose? He should be showing how he can use this technology to make electronic circuitry or anything else that that will benefit society. This “art” may well be unique but I would remind everyone that electron beams have been used similarly to etch materials in nano-scale. A political figure does not appear appropriate to me, considering that he works for a state supported institution. This is a violation of state ethic laws to use the equipment owned by the state university and time paid by taxpayers to engage in any activity with political intent.

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