Todd Siler, “Metaphorming NanoCrystals (1 to 100 nm) for Creating NanoLeafs” (2013–14). Mixed media on cut and welded aluminum plate, 38 cm x 46 cm x 46 cm

Artist Todd Siler designed this piece to invoke, on the macroscale, the nanocrystals that would power an “artificial leaf” that uses light from the sun to split water into H2 and O2 or to generate electricity. Such visualizations help the scientific process, collaborator Geoffrey Ozin wrote in his 2009 book “Concepts of Nanochemistry.” “Once you can ‘see’ a model of the process in your mind you can more easily develop a hypothesis.” 

Ozin is a chemistry professor at the University of Toronto. In addition to his research, which has earned him recognition as the “father of nanochemistry,” Ozin is a dedicated educator renowned for his work bringing chemistry education beyond the traditional bounds of the textbook, classroom, and lab. Siler is an internationally recognized visual artist and innovator. Much of his work is motivated by a desire to communicate science to the public and to use art to envision viable solutions to real-world global challenges. You can explore their collaborations, which range from neuroscience to nanochemistry, at www.artnanoinnovations.com.

Related C&EN Content

Ozin reflects on the nanochemistry’s foundation and predicts its future impact.

Writing a new fic like
  • 0 words:this idea is great! someone should write it! *I* will write it! it's going to be brilliant and everyone will adore it
  • 0-500 words:omg writing is so hard i’ve been writing for hours and the numbers never change why am i doing this
  • 500-2000 words:i know i just posted something else recently but clearly i've forgotten how to write in the meantime. this is all a disaster i should give up
  • 2000-3000 words:hey waiiiit wait did my characters just do that? where did that scene come from?? THIS IS AMAZING i'm so talented
  • 3000-4000 words:i just read a comment on someone else's fic and now i want to quit forever because my writing will never make anyone feel that way
  • 4000-5000 words:nah man this is actually awesome i'm in the zoooone everything's flowing this is going to be beautiful
  • 5000-6000 words:i'm still writing but i'm completely distracted by another idea i just had that would be wayyyy better
  • 50,000 words:what the hell happened
Scientists have developed liquid-metal 'nano-terminators' to target cancer cells
My mission is to protect you.
By Peter Dockrill

Liquid-metal terminators are generally something to be afraid of – but what if the substance was used to fight cancer instead of wiping out humanity?

That’s exactly what researchers in the US are working on, having developed a biodegradable liquid metal that can be used as a drug delivery technique to target cancer cells.

“The advance here is that we have a drug-delivery technique that may enhance the effectiveness of the drugs being delivered, can help doctors locate tumours, can be produced in bulk, and appears to be wholly biodegradable with very low toxicity,” said Zhen Gu, a biomedical engineer in a joint program at North Carolina’s State University and University at Chapel Hill. “And one of the advantages of this technique is that these liquid metal drug carriers – or ‘nano-terminators’ – are very easy to make.”

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Scientists create single-molecule ‘nanosubmarines’ powered by light
Fantastic Voyage here we come!
By Peter Dockrill

In science-fiction movies like Fantastic Voyage and Innerspace, plucky individuals board microscopic submersibles and take a trip inside the human body… where predictably dramatic consequences ensue.

We’re not quite there yet, but it seems we’re getting close. Scientists in the US have developed nanosubmarines (aka. unimolecular submersible nanomachines) composed of a single molecule of just 244 atoms.

The nanosubs are powered by ultraviolet light, with the motor’s tail-like propeller – which operates more like a bacteria’s flagellum than a conventional motorised propeller – moving the nanomachines forward by 18 nanometres with each full revolution.

Now it’s fair to say nobody will try to sell you an engine based on how quickly it goes from zero to 18 nanometres, and to be sure, that doesn’t sound very far. But given the scale of the nanosub itself and the frequency of revolutions per minute (RPM), these are actually extremely fast little boats.

With a constant UV power source, the motor runs at more than a million RPM, rocketing the sub through solution at a top speed of 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) per second. Not too shabby, especially when you consider that the nanosubs have to make their way through solution crowded with moving molecules of similar size. Crosstown traffic, effectively.

“This is akin to a person walking across a basketball court with 1,000 people throwing basketballs at him,” said chemist James Tour from Rice University. “These are the fastest-moving molecules ever seen in solution.”

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Appropriate Body Types

Good morning, campers!

So, I want to talk today about body types. I think this is a topic that get’s wayyy overlooked when it comes to writing - especially fantasy and post apocalyptic writing. The problem with trying to create appropriate body types for the setting of your plot and status of your character is that you have to work via stereotypes for a rough guideline. For example; if your protagonist is a peasant, it is likely that they are malnourished. 

Perhaps not, perhaps their family are excellent farmers and have enough food to go around, simply nothing else of any worth. That’d be an excellent explanation as to why they’re father, say, was overweight, or never in a foul mood! He’s never hungry. 

Because that’s something people overlook: MOOD MATTERS. Factors that effect your body can have a huge impact on your mood, mental health and mental growth. Take yourself, for example. Have you ever gone three days without a meal? Imagine what kind’a mood you’d be in to deal with someone’s shit. It might not be so pretty. In this way, body type spans way more than just how much muscle someone is carrying. 

A good example to look at would be NOBILITY. I have seen far too many slim young noble girls in fantasy fiction; when in actual fact, all the portraiture and documented evidence we have suggests these noble women would do well fed, have curves, and be praised for that. The complexion of your skin also said a lot about you: rough, or sun-tanned/burnt skin meant your had known labour. 

But again this has to be balanced against what is normal for your character. I’ve known so many ‘tomboy’ style noble characters, who join in the hunt and spend their days in the skin yet retain their porcelain or ebony complexions. How, exactly? They don’t come through divine birth you know! Similarly, with noble males. They did tend to receive more training than other males, sometimes, more than even soldiers. 

So, when planning body types, here is my advice;

  • Look at what social-economic status your character has.
  • Look at the average body type for your character’s time/class.
    • How much food do they have access too?
    • Do they drink?
    • What training or physical activity do they partake in?
    • How common are physical ailments/injuries?
    • Do they get enough sleep?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of your character’s body type?
  • How do health factors affect your character’s state of mind?
  • How do others’ look at your character solely due to appearances?
  • How does your character feel about their body, skill and image?
  • Do they fit, biologically, with other members of their family?
  • Do battle scars, mental traumas, and old diseases just vanish, or have you made sure you understand their lasting effects? 
  • How do they relate to gender?

Now the DO NOTs;

  • Don’t judge beauty/health standards by modern, western ideals. 
  • Don’t think that your world should have one ideal image.
  • Don’t assume your character is happy with their gender or ability simply because they were born with it. 
  • Don’t think that no one judges you on how you look.
  • Don’t give your character a disability if you don’t want to do your research or ever have it hinder them. 
  • Don’t give your Barberians/peasants/etc shaved armpits and tweaked eyebrows. Y’know, unless they’re Spartans. 

Again, you know. Appearance isn’t everything; but it is a huge part of who we are and how we look at ourselves and get through life. This is the only body we get to spend our lives in and in some climates, cultures and worlds, we didn’t have the same choices about our body as we do now. 

So just think on it! 


This fiery ring is actually a layer of iron oxide on a 500-nm-wide silicate particle. Researchers at the University of Texas, Dallas, created this image while using transmission electron microscopy to look at the distribution of iron oxide inside the nanoshell; brighter colors in the image represent higher concentrations. The nanoshells are being developed as a contrast agent for real-time Doppler imaging of tumors during surgery (Adv. Funct. Mater. 2015, DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201500610). This image won a 2015 scientific image contest put on by JEOL, an imaging and spectroscopic instrument maker.

Credit: Moon Kim/Ning Lu/University of Texas, Dallas/Andrew Kummel/UC San Diego

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