Just when you thought an Obama thong was the weirdest way to pay homage to the President Elect, science – as ever – came around and proved that even the biggest star in the world can be smaller than a grain of sand.

Known as “Nanobamas,” these 3-D portraits of Barack Obama were the brainchild of John Hart, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan.  Hart devised the puny portraits to raise awareness of nanotechnology.  These are not his first artistic creation of atomic scale; his other works can be seen at nanobliss.

The Nanobamas themselves contain 150 million carbon nanotubes – hollow cylinders 1/50,000 the width of a single hair on your head – stacked on top of each other.  And if you truly understand this beyond a conceptual level, your left brain is considerably more honed than my own and you’re allowed to wear the super powers shirt.

The portraits are a rendition of Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama portrait, seen everywhere from signposts to garage doors to – thanks to Hart – a silicone wafer.  The Nanobamas are about a half millimeter in size, meaning that unless you actually do possess superpowers you’ll need a microscope to see them.  Whether Shepard Fairey will send a microscopic C&D delivered by his highly trained platoon of angry army ants has yet to be determined.

And so we congratulate John Hart as the Fantasy T-Wearer of the week, wearing any flavor of the Engineering Superhero design.

May the force be with you, sir.  Now please, get back to work – those atoms won’t split themselves.  Though perhaps the Nanobamas can reach across the aisle and bring them back together.

  1. If I understand this correctly, John Hart exposed a catalytic substrate to chemical vapor. Everywhere that he didn’t mask off with microlithographic resist, the substrate absorbs billions of carbon atoms a minute from the vapor which then emerge as a velvet of closely packed carbon bristles growing straight upwards.


    These velvets would emit electrons if charged with moderate voltages, say 70 volts, and this could be the basis of a vaccuum-fluorescent display (VFD).

    They could also be used to attract and repel tiny liquid drops, allowing a “velvety integrated circuit” to perform complex chemical analysis by dragging nanogram dollops of fluid from place to place on its surface. This would revolutionize everything from testing for dangeorus bacteria to adding “smellovision” to cellphones.

    And hey, wouldn’t we all like to add something like that to our shops?

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