Posted by Davina Jackson on 16 Dec 2012

‘Freeze-dry NaBt with Gelatin’ (MacDiarmid Institute).

New Zealand’s nanotechnology research community is exhibiting its most exciting images of invisible structures – captured by today’s most powerful microscopes.

Winners of a national competition held by the University of Canterbury’s MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology will appear in The Art of the Invisible exhibition at the University of Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery 8-20 February 2013.

While some of the images have been taken with older optical and electron microscopes (which cannot see atoms and molecules), the highest resolutions have been achieved with new atomic force and scanning tunnelling microscopes. These each scan with a very sharp needle at a fixed distance from each object being imaged; a computer then creates each image by measuring how far the needle has to move to keep the distance constant.

Canterbury University’s Professor of Physics, Simon Brown, has noted that (according to Benoit Mendelsohn’s geometry of fractals), nano-scale structures can be recognised as the basic compositions for much larger structures in nature. Nano-structures also have inspired many recent works of radical architecture for buildings and landscapes. At the opposite scale of man-made structures, transistors on computer chips already are less than 50 nanometres, continuing to shrink.

Researchers around the world are attempting to integrate tiny chips into various parts of the body, including the human eye – and there is a project to control disease by linking chips to viruses.