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March 15, 2007



"Nanowire," from the Gallery of Eric J. Heller. Explanation of image, as taken from Heller Gallery: As components of electronic devices get ever smaller, wires connecting those components must also shrink in proportion. At the micron to nanometer scale, where devices are now being built, the wave nature of matter is becoming critical. This may be an advantage or it may be a problem. Making and understanding nanowires is certainly a challenge. Real nanowires have imperfections.

The image Nanowire grew out of a study of electron flow in a wire riddled with random imperfections. It shows electrons injected at one point contact, the "sun," flowing out from there to all regions of the wire. The disturbance of the electron tracks by the imperfections is shown in their somewhat unruly paths. The quantum aspect of the electrons is shown in color: we can follow the wave nature of the electrons by assigning yellow to the crest of the wave, blue to a trough, continuously around the color circle.

The creative process leading to Nanowire is typical of my artwork: a synthesis of research and artistic creation, each one enhancing the other. Experiments conducted by M. Topinka, B. LeRoy and B. Westervelt measuring electron transport in semiconductor microstructures led to scientific illustrations of electrons riding over bumpy landscape potentials. Experimentation with various methods of recording individual electron tracks (overwrite, transparency, color combination) led to a variety of effects and expanded the horizon of the medium. The resulting Transport series is the first of large format high resolution electron flow images using branched flow physics. These images revealed the caustics formed when electrons flow from a particular point over a hilly landscape.

Heller's work was included in the exhibit "Approaching Chaos," shown at the National Science Foundation (NSF) headquarters in Arlington, Va., July thru October 2002, as part of "The Art of Science Project." The Art of Science Project was conceived and implemented by a cross-directorate committee of NSF staff. Its purpose is to bring to NSF, original works of art that visually explore the connections between artistic and scientific expression.

This image is copyright and was included in the NSF Multimedia Gallery with permission from the owner. See "Restrictions" below regarding use of this image. [Research supported by Harvard's NSEC (NSF) grant.] (Date of Image: 2001)

Credit: Eric J. Heller, Harvard University

Special Restrictions: Copyright 2001 Eric J. Heller; not for publication without permission of author. Contact at

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