Nano Geometries (2018-2019)

Ongoing audiovisual artwork developed at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL)

Nano Geometries

(João Martinho Moura, 2018)
Ongoing audiovisual work that presents data visualization approaches at the nanoscale. Developed in the context of an artistic collaboration at the Micro and Nanofabrication Department of INL (International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory), it presents audio-visual content related to the characterization processes of nanostructures with 10 US billion nano-pillars, fabricated at INL.

Nano Geometries
(João Martinho Moura, 2018)
Trabalho audiovisual que explora visualizações de dados à nano escala. Projeto em desenvolvimento no contexto de uma colaboração artística no Departamento de Micro e Nanofabricação do INL (International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory), que apresenta conteúdos audio-visuais relacionados com os processos de caracterização de nano-estruturas com 10 biliões de nano-pilares, fabricadas no INL.

Presented at the 2018 European Researchers’ Night, at Palácio das Artes, Porto, Portugal. 28 Sep. 2018
(15-24h) Audio-visual presentation

This audio-visual work explores data visualization algorithmic codes made by an artist in residence, in collaboration with scientists and researchers at the INL’s facilities. Those codes use computer vision and visual algorithms to visualize and characterize nanopillar observed structures with SEM equipment.

Artwork specifications

10m wide projected area
Computer, Interface sensors
Custom software by artist
Sound speakers
1 Light
1 Camera

One nanopillar structure wafer
Area: 10 x 9 x 4 m2

Artwork Description

Nano Geometries

Visualizing and characterizing scientific data from observations at the nanoscale is an essential and challenging task. 


Using computer vision technologies, and creative programming open-source environments, we developed a series of software visualizations which achieve significant advances in the characterization of observations obtained by the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), an instrument that produces images of a sample by scanning the surface with a focused beam of electrons. Observed material are nanopillar structures. Nanopillars is an emerging technology, within the field of nanostructures, placed together in lattice-like arrays. Each nanopillar has a pillar shape at the bottom and a tapered pointy end on top. This shape, in combination with nanopillars’ ability to be grouped together, exhibits many useful properties, having many applications including efficient solar panels, high-resolution analysis, antibacterial surfaces and water reduction.


Dense and large-area arrays of nanometric scale structures are regularly fabricated at INL Cleanroom. The characterization of sub-micron structures (below 500 nm) at a large scale and its post data analysis is a very challenging task. The observed subject consists of approximately ten US billion ( pillars of 1 um height and 500 nm in diameter, with 1 um period equally distributed among a diameter of 110 mm. With the obtained raw data, geometric parameters were extracted from the images with the development of our custom software using computer vision algorithms. A metrological analysis has been performed to determine the patterning accuracy in the XYZ dimensions. A method was developed and established to automatically determine the diameter of each pillar, its circularity factor, and neighborhood distances, in each observation. For this, a large set of SEM images at high and low magnification were obtained. For low magnification top view images (250 X), more than 2×10^8 pillars (corresponding to ~ 2%) were analyzed.


Nanotechnology is mostly based on physical processes, and it is interesting to note that this more analogical effect causes interesting visual outputs, similar to generative images, usually produced by computational noise or even random effects. Those geometries, nanopillar parameters, neighborhoods, shape characteristics, distances, scales, and codes, will be presented in the form of an interactive installation.


Here, we observe and characterize at the sub-micron level, with incredible accuracy, facing an immense quantity of data. The developed software is used to generate those visuals, and each number, shape, distance or formula is authentic, invisible to the naked eye, and only processed by top-notch and accurate code.

Nanopillar structures observed at INL’s cleanroom

Artwork Credits

Media Art, Code, Visuals, Data Visualization and Sound:
João Martinho Moura

Scientific supervision:
João Gaspar, Jordi Llobet, Marco Martins

Scale Travels / INL Media Art Lab coordination:
Marina Dias
Inês Costa

Structure nanofabrication:
Department of Micro and Nanofabrication. INL

Lars Montelius, Eurico Moreira, Rosana Dias, Marina Dias, Inês Costa, and the Micro and Nanofabrication team members

Moura, João Martinho; Llobet, Jordi; Martins, Marco; Gaspar, João. Creative approaches on interactive visualization and characterization at the nanoscale. Proceedings of ArtsIT Arts and Technology 2018 – 7th EAI International Conference: ArtsIT, Interactivity & Game Creation, Braga, Portugal, 2018
Full paper to be presented on 24-26 October at ArtsIT 2018
link to publication soon available

About INL and the context of this artwork

INL is the first intergovernmental organization in Europe in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. In 2015, the Laboratory launched the Scale Travels initiative, that aims at fostering a multidisciplinary and hybrid approach between science, and one of its goals is to spark the discussion about the social, cultural and ethical impact of nanotechnology through media arts and to create novel media and digital objects based on nanotechnology, leading to original experiences and unexpected products, processes and services. The Scale Travels Residencies aims at bringing media artists and researchers into conversation and convergence embedded in a real laboratory environment inside INL’s facilities. This creative connection promotes the inclusion of new expert knowledge in the media arts and frames the discussion on the complexities underlying the nanoscience and nanotechnology research. INL is also hosting artistic residencies from the European Commission Starts initiative. INL is located in the City of Braga, Portugal, which was included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The title of UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts was attributed to the city of Braga on the 31st of October 2017.