Nelson played host to 500 of the world’s leading scientists at the MacDiarmid Institute’s biennial international conference on nanotechnology, AMN-7 from 8-12 February.  Alongside the conference the public had a chance to see some of the astonishing work of our New Zealand scientists, through an exhibition of images from nanotechnology research. Nanotechnology is the science of atoms and molecules and works on the scale of billionths of a metre. The structures are far too small to be imaged by even the very best optical microscopes. The images in the exhibition are obtained from very large and expensive microscopes of other kinds, such as electron microscopes. The Exhibition of 50 images – Small Matters: art from the world of nanotechnology – opened at the Nelson Provincial Museum on 10th February and ran till the 8th March. The images showed another universe of strange and compelling geometry and irregular shapes that reveal the fundamental structures of matter.  The images are intrinsically aesthetic – and in many cases inspiring.  At the same time these nanomaterials have important applications – our scientists are learning to build custom-made materials from the atoms up with enhanced properties for example – materials that are super strong,  can interface with organic bone and tissues, or enable new generations of computer chips.  Smart nano-enabled materials may play a huge role in the medical, energy and environment sectors. This exhibition is the third in a series that have been held over the past 5 years, with the first in Christchurch in 2010 (re-exhibited at the Michael Fowler Center in Wellington in 2011) and the second in Auckland in 2013. Media Release 30 Jan 2015 – Small Matters – art from the world of nanotechnology

Update: 09 Feb 2015 – Exhibition launched and competition winners announced
On the evening of Monday February 9 members of the Nelson Science Society and The MacDiarmid Institute came together to celebrate the opening of the Small Matters: the art of nanotechnology exhibition and to raise money via silent auction for the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Predator-Proof fence. During the evening, the winners of the MacDiarmid Institute’s Images of Nanotechnology competition were announced. The winning entry was entitled “Micro Lamb Rack” and was produced by Andrew Chan of the University of Auckland. The image (see below) does indeed look like a lamb rack but is about one million times smaller. The image is actually an image of an insect’s vascular system and was taken as part of research into new bio-inspired microfluidic systems for lab-on-a-chip devices, that can be used, for example, in diseases diagnosis and drug discovery. The Exhibition organiser, Prof Simon Brown said “The judges had a very difficult job to find a winner – there were just so many exciting entries in the competition.”

First: Micro Lamb Rack Andrew Chan – School of Chemical Sciences, the University of Auckland
78 Chan - Micro Chan Lamb RackThis image resembles a rib cage but is actually the intricate vein system of the Green Bottle Fly (Lucillia sericata). Insect vascular systems may serve as blueprints for the design of bio-inspired microfluidic systems for lab-on-a-chip devices. Image area: 10 µm x 7.5 μm

Second: Multi-layer Film Rayomand Shahlori – The University of Auckland
Rayomand Shahlori The image shows thin films of calcium phosphate grown from a protein interleaved with another material called ι-Carrageenan, The multi-layer film is an organic-inorganic hybrid material. Such composites are abundant in nature and serve functions that cannot be achieved by inorganic crystals or organic matter alone. Image area: 60 µm x 100 μm

Third: A Starry Night of Liquid Crystals Graham Fairweather – Victoria University of Wellington
Starry NightVincent van Gough painted The Starry Night in 1889 depicting the view from his asylum room. I obtained this image several years into a PhD and after long days in a dark room chained to an electron microscope searching for the perfect image. Scale: 47 µm x 37 µm