Art of Science – Micro Yacht

Micro-Yacht Peter Heard Nov 2015 Art of Science

Science is amazing. Science is advancement. And sometimes, science is art. Each month this year Memetic Drift will feature a winning image from the University of Bristol’s Art of Science competition 2014.


This month’s Art of Science winner is Micro Yacht by Dr Peter Heard from the Interface Analysis Centre in the School of Physics.

This feathery yacht is a 3D micro-structure made of platinum metal standing up from a silicon base. It’s a gorgeous piece of serendipity; Dr Peter Heard created it accidentally while using a focused ion / electron beam machine. These devices use powerful ion and electron beams to etch patterns into a surface in (usually!) very precise positions. With metal-containing gas vapours they can also be used to deposit metal onto a surface.

Micro-Yacht Peter Heard Nov 2015 Art of SciencePeter was trying to make a small, neat rectangular box out of platinum that he would use to protect another part of his sample. He wasexperimenting with different energy and electron beam current settings, when something rather unexpected happened. Peter explains: “On this occasion I got the conditions entirely wrong, and this beautiful structure appeared instead – completely unexpectedly. The exact shape of the feathery structure was not intended, and some others came out more vertically; rather like snow flakes, no two were the same.”

Dr Heard’s current research focusses on nuclear power stations and the waste materials that they produce. What are the safest ways to dispose of this waste, or could we make make good use of them? He was also recently involved in a study that analysed banana peel and suggested it may be able to remove arsenic-based compounds from polluted water supplies!

Next month’s image – the final one – is a stressful beauty…


The annual Art of Science competition at the University of Bristol bridges the perceived divide between art and science, showing images which visually demonstrate that the pursuit of knowledge can be as beautiful as it is fascinating. 

This year there were three prize categories; Judges’ vote, People’s vote, and Schools’ vote. Each category had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize, and a runner-up. Micro Yacht won 2nd prize in the Judges’ vote. Image used with permission. 

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