Sci-Fi Miners

João Martinho Moura (2019)

Sci-Fi Miners
(João Martinho Moura, 2018-2019)

An artistic exploration of how, with the help of scientific advances in nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, a new generation of nano-clusters are replacing critical natural resources becoming rare on planet Earth. Imagine one millimeter … now, divide it by one million. That is one nanometer, an incredibly small-scale unit where Sci-fi Miners’ narrative happens, a journey beginning at the millimeter scale (1mm), ending at the size of one nanometer (1nm), employing virtual reality technologies.

Work designed by João Martinho Moura with the support of the STARTS Residencies as part of the STARTS program of the European Commission, based on the technological elements of the CritCat Project (INL)

Research/Artistic work in progress presented at:
Centre Pompidou / IRCAM
Paris, France
(27-29 March 2019)
Link (video documentary)

Audio-visual immersive performance presented at:
INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory
Braga, Portugal (11 April 2019)
Link (video documentary)

Multiple large façade display solo exhibition and VR experience at Art Center Nabi
Seoul, Republic of Korea (15 May – 19 July 2019)
Link (Venue: Art Center Nabi) Link (pictures)

Research publication:
Publication at ARTECH 2019. João Martinho Moura and Yury Kolen’ko (2019). Sci-fi Miners: a virtual reality journey to the nanocluster scale.
23-25 October 2019 – Braga, Portugal

Research conducted at INL and the STARTS European Commission initiative. Research publication presented at Artech 2019.
PDF available here.

Performance in virtual reality

Paris, France (28 February – 1 March 2020)
(pictures) Link (video)

Pictures of the performance at Le Centquatre, Paris, 2020:

Sci-Fi Miners, Performance at CentQuatre Paris, in Virtual Reality. STARTS. INL. European Commission. João Martinho Moura

Pictures of the Le 104Paris performance (João Martinho Moura, 2020) [picture gallery]

Video #5: ’10 min documentary’:

Video: ‘Sci-fi Miners, 10 min Documentary’, (João Martinho Moura, 2019). [video description]

Sci-fi miners is an audio-visual exploration of the possibilities generated by the nanotechnological advances in the research of the replacement of critical materials, very rare on planet earth, by improved nanoparticle control. Those materials, critical metals, especially rare platinum group metals (PMGs), are essential and used for heterogeneous and electrochemical catalysis.

At the Critcat project, researchers are exploring new ways to substitute those rare materials, in order to achieve optimal catalytic performance with earth-abundant materials.

I’m naming those researchers the sci-fi miners, once the extraction of those rare materials is currently made by the mining industry, in deep caves located in a small number of regions in the world, in very low concentrations, mainly in South Africa. And those brave researchers are exploring new ways to create materials with the same catalytic characteristics, but with nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

Currently, many countries are deeply or even totally dependent on the mining industry to obtain these materials, relevant for fuel cells, storage of renewable energy, and for pollutant emissions control. For some strategic metals, the European Union is totally dependent on import. Nowadays we can obtain a few grams of platinum per ton of rock, and the extraction process is very expensive and long. Urgency is the word I find for this research.

In the course of my STARTS residency I’m working mainly at INL (International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory), Aalto University, and with other Critcat project partners, exploring the projects’ data generated nanoparticle parameters such as size, shape, surface structure, and computational simulations, to create audio-visual experiences, in virtual environments, intending to let the public know how significant this research is for humankind and for the sustainability of our planet.

Pictures: with the of Researchers from INL,
Aalto University and Nanolayers

Pictures: visual software development in course

Challenging the Scale

Image: ‘You’re now at the nano space’, Sci-fi Miners (João Martinho Moura, 2019), virtual reality experience.
Dots represent real observed nanoparticle foam to produce clean hydrogen fuel (approximate scale: 5µm).
The participant is teleported to the nanoscale, in virtual reality, a journey to the 1nm nanocluster atomic dimension.

Audio-visual performance:

Sci-fi Miners (João Martinho Moura, 2019).
Performance (20 min). Presented at INL, main auditorium. 11th April 2019.
Moments of performance occurred in total immersion, in virtual reality on stage, followed by a demonstration to the audience: a group of senior researchers and scientists finding alternatives to critical rare materials on earth.
Pictures (João Prieto)

Pictures of exhibition at Art Center Nabi, Seoul, Republic of Korea (2019):

Video #2: ‘There

Video description: “There“: facing PtNPs nanoparticles at a scale below 200 nanometers. Particle scale, shape, agglomeration, and distance are real, once the environment was previously observed and acquired with a transmission electron microscope, at INL facilities (International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory), in January 2019. The sound was generated by the observations’ computational parameters and inspired by the instruments at the Lab. Experience conducted in total immersion.

Picture: Sci-fi Miners. João Martinho Moura. 2019.
Generated reconstruction calculated by SEM microscopy observations at INL cleanroom,
representing nanoparticle foam to produce clean hydrogen fuel.
Approximate scale: 10µm

Visualization software: C2H2Conversions (João Martinho Moura and Olumide Ayodele, INL)

Picture: Sci-Fi Miners – Visualization C2H2Conversions
Visual software created by João Martinho Moura, supervised by researcher Olumide Ayodele (INL), in the course of the residency. Mathematicallinear / logarithmic models by Olumide Ayodele
February 2019.

Visualization prototype: Nanoclusters (João Martinho Moura, working at INL / Aalto University / Nanolayers)

Picture: Sci-Fi Miners – Nanocluster, generated by IA, visualized.
Work in progress. Visual software created by João Martinho Moura, after visiting Aalto University and the SIN Group (Surfaces and Interfaces at the Nanoscale)in the course of the residency. Mathematical attractions around nanoclusters
March 2019.

Nanoclusters activity. Preview in virtual reality. (João Martinho Moura, working at INL / Aalto University / Nanolayers)

Picture: Sci-Fi Miners – A.I. CritCat generated nanoclusters and their catalytic activity. Work in progress. Virtual reality work created by artist, supervised by the CritCat team. Informal cinematic version for the general audience.
March 2019.

Video #3: ‘Nano-clusters‘ (VR)

Picture: talking with chemistry Researcher Yasmine Ziouani (INL)

Video #1: ‘Awareness

Picture: Pt NPs on cerium with 5% Pt weight loading

The artwork will be presented in two different schemes: participatory and performative. In both cases vision, audio and interaction will play the main role. When in participatory form, suitable for exhibition spaces, participants will interact with the artwork through gestures, observation, and audition, with immersive and virtual reality technologies. When in the performative version, the author will present the same artwork, at a stage, with a real-time narrative in mind.

My work is taking place in 2 Research Institutions: INL and Aalto University.

The major part of these developments will occur at INL facilities, in Portugal, to interact with Nanotechnology and accessing advanced microscopy equipment (TEM – Transmission Electron Microscope, and SEM – Scanning Electron Microscope).

Another part will occur at Aalto University, in Finland, to explore the way researchers are working with Artificial Intelligence in the project.

About PMGs

The platinum group metals (PGMs) are noble and precious elements, which include platinum, palladium, ruthenium, iridium, osmium, and rhodium, all of them important in modern manufacturing and in the ICT industry in particular, including the growing concerns about energy consumption by computer systems. The availability of PGMs is considered highly critical for the EU, since PGMs are clearly in the high-risk supply regions, such as China and Russia. CritCat is a theory-driven project, which aims at developing new catalyst nanoparticles from Earth-abundant materials for hydrogen-based clean energy applications. CritCat’s interdisciplinary process combines theoretical and experimental activities and highlights the importance of computational modeling in materials discovery. By incorporating the latest materials science know-how with computational simulations based on the laws of quantum mechanics, machine learning algorithms, as well as artificial neural network, the team aims at developing a modeling platform, which enables efficient prediction of potential catalysts.

Picture: Sci-fi Miners: Nanoparticle foam to
produce clean hydrogen fuel.
Observed with an SEM microscope.

Picture: the TITAN (TEM Transmission Electron Microscope,
one on the most advanced instrument in the world,
located at INL facilities, in Braga)


Study on the review of the list of critical raw materials
2017. European Commission. Corporate author(s): Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Other authors: Deloitte Sustainability, TNO, British Geological Survey, Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières

What is the world’s scarcest material?
2014. Rachel Nuwer, BBC

Rare metals

Sci-Fi Miners, Credits:

Artist: João Martinho Moura

special acknowledgments to INL / Nanolayers / Aalto / CritCat Researchers:
Yury Kolenko (INL)
Olumide Ayodele (INL)
Yasmine Ziouani (INL)
Jordi Llobet (INL)
Alec LaGrow (INL)
Enrique Carbo (INL)

David Gao (Nanolayers)
Federici Filippo (Nanolayers)
Adam Foster (Aalto University)
Marc Jäger (Aalto University)
Prokop Hapala (Aalto University)
Yang Lei (Aalto University)

INL collaborators:
Marina Dias
Inês Costa

Marta Coto

Louise Enjalbert

Research Institutions:

Tampere University, Finland

Aalto-korkeakoulusäätio, Finland

NPL Management Limited, United Kingdom

Forschungszentrum Julich Gmbh, Germany

INL (International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory), Portugal

Syngaschem Bv, Netherlands

Tethis Spa, Italy

Nanolayers Research Computing Ltd, United Kingdom

Swansea University, United Kingdom

About João Martinho Moura

Researcher and media artist born in Portugal. His interests lie in embodied interfaces, computer music, and computational aesthetics. For the past 15 years, he’s been adopting new ways to represent the body in digital media, creating interactive audiovisual artifacts, mostly represented by monochromatic visual abstractions and minimalist lines. João Martinho Moura has a special interest in real-time visualization, art & science, and digital interactive artifacts.

João Martinho Moura has presented his work and research in a variety of conferences related to the arts and technology. He has collaborated with the development of projects related to scientific data visualization for ESA (European Space Agency) space missions. From 2015 to 2017 he was an active member, as media artist consultant and contributor, for the application of the city of Braga to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network – Braga Media Arts. The title of ‘UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts’ was attributed to the city of Braga on the 31st of October 2017.

In 2013 João Martinho Moura received, in Lisbon, the National Multimedia Award – Art & Culture, for his contributions in the field of art and technology in Portugal.

His work has been presented in a variety of places in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, México, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, UK, USA, Republic of Korea and was included in the curated collections ‘Selected Works ARS ELECTRONICA Animation Festival’ (Linz, 2012), the ‘Processing curated collection’ (USA, 2008) and the curated catalogue of 2019 International Symposium on Electronic Arts, ISEA (Gwangju, 2019).

Picture: João Martinho Moura
Speaking at SIGNAL Festival Conference
(Czech Republic, Prague, 2015).
Picture: Dalibor Knapp

Picture: Sci-Fi Miners: an image of the artwork (immersed perspective)