NNCI’s Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom Image Contest

The field of nanotechnology is based on the unit of the nanometer (0.000000001 meters). For reference, a human hair is roughly 100,000 nm in diameter. In scientific notation, one nanometer is equivalent to 10-9 meters. When a day was chosen to celebrate nanotechnology in the United States, this unit provided an easy way to remember it: October 9 (or 10/9 in the US dating system). In celebration of National Nanotechnology Day, the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) annually hosts an image contest, Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom. Referencing Richard Feynman’s 1959 lecture, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” this image contest celebrates the beauty of the micro and nanoscale. Images featured in this contest were produced at one of the 16 NNCI facilities during the previous two years.

NNCI sites submitted images in three different categories: Most Stunning, Most Unique Capability, and Most Whimsical. Most Stunning images illustrate the pure beauty of matter at the micro and nanoscale. Images in the Most Unique Capability category demonstrate a specific technical competency of the facility where it was produced. Finally, Most Whimsical images provide a medium where artists can playfully use micro and nanoscale objects as the foundation to build charming or enchanting images. Winning artists receive up to $1,000 in travel support to a professional conference of their choice and their NNCI site receives a framed print of their winning image. Sites who received honorable mentions will also receive a framed print of their image.

This year, public voting took place during the week of National Nanotechnology Day (Oct. 8-15) with sites promoting the contest through various communication channels, including help from our colleagues in NanoFabNet. Over 2,400 votes were cast to determine the winner in each category. In addition to the image contest, individual NNCI sites also hosted Nanotechnology Day events including researchers meeting virtually with classrooms, online symposia, virtual celebrations in collaboration with local science centers, and posting social media content.

For 2021, the winning and honorable mention images in each category are:

Most Stunning


A Micro Blooming Lotus

Artist: Aofei Mao and Peixun Fan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

NNCI Site: Nebraska Nanoscale Facility


Honorable Mention


Nano-wrinkled Head

Artists: Zainab Patel, Graduate Student, and Lucas Meza, University of Washington

NNCI Site: Northwest Nanotechnology Infrastructure


Most Unique Capability


Our Cups Floweth Over, But Can Easily Tip

Artists: Greg Allion, Staff, and Sravanthi Vallabhuneni, Student, North Carolina State University

NNCI Site: Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network


Honorable Mention

Femtosecond Laser Patterned Stainless Steel 3D Pillar Array Surrounded by Laser Induced Periodic Surface Structures (LIPSS)

Artist: Thomas S. Marchese, Undergraduate Student, Georgia Institute of Technology

NNCI Site: Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor


Most Whimsical


Lotus on Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Coating

Artists: Mohsen Hosseini, Ph.D. Student and William A. Ducker, Professor, Virginia Tech

NNCI Site: NanoEarth


Honorable Mention

Nano Strawberry Fields Forever

Artists: Ana C. Barrios, Graduate Student, and Francois Perreault, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

NNCI Site: Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest


Written by: David Gottfried and Quinn Spadola (NNCI Coordinating Office at Georgia Tech)