By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

There’s science, and there’s applied science. Here’s some interesting applied science: Nanobamas. OK. We get that everything’s Obama right now. Obama-drama. Obama-rama. But nanobamas?

The scoop: John Hart, an assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Michigan wants to expand our understanding of nanotechnology, which could be vital to developing better solar cells and batteries, disease treatments and the continuing perfecting of computer processors. Solar power could benefit from nano-thinking and already is, with experimental fabrics and even spray-on solar particles under development that could collect the sun’s energy wherever they go.

So who better to raise the profile of nanotech than the latest president elect?

Each tiny Barack Obama is smaller than a grain of salt. The images were based on Shepard Fairey’s red, white and blue poster of the president-elect. Scientists used lasers, glass plates and silicon wafers to miniaturize the picture, then grew the nanotubes on the pattern. Then they photographed the results under high magnification with an electron microscope.

And yes, that’s weird and a little scary that nanotubes grow.

Every portrait contains a mind-boggling 150 million carbon nanotubes “stacked vertically like trees in a forest,” according to a statement on these presidential electrons and protons. And the construction is drum-tight, with each carbon nanotube being very strong — and small, about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair.

That’s nano nano. Sure, jokes come to mind. Let’s just say we hope this is more foreshadowing of a mighty, new energy future, and not a metaphor for our shrinking economy.

(To read about nanotechnology see the U.S. government website, National Nanotechnology Initiative.)

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