Visual images in nanotechnology

There are frequent requests for visual images that illustrate the concepts of molecular nanotechnology. This is a brief guide to some of the available images.

The Nanorex gallery has simulations of several new molecular machines.

Zyvex has produced video of exponential assembly, a scale-independent replicative architecture which could be implemented in the next few years using MEMS. It's hypnotic.

The Nanomedicine Art Gallery has quite a few excellent images

Nanosystems has excellent black-and-white images of molecular structures. These images typically show a structure with a few dozen to a few thousand atoms, where each atom is a sphere. The different element types are shown by using different levels of gray. Several of the color images below show molecular structures that are similar or identical to structures illustrated in Nanosystems. The captions for the black and white images in Nanosystems provide useful documentation for the corresponding color images.

One of the most popular images from Nanosystems is the planetary gear, an early version of which is shown on page 312 (see illustration at right).

A newer version is described on-line at: (see illustration at left). The web page for this newer version provides background information and links to further information.

A second very popular image from Nanosystems is the bearing illustrated on page 296. The caption on page 296 and the text on page 297 provide background information about the bearing and what it does. Several high resolution images of this bearing are available:

A smaller bearing is shown on page 298 of Nanosystems.

A hydrocarbon bearing (designed by R. C. Merkle)

A hydrocarbon universal joint, (designed by K. E. Drexler and R. C. Merkle).

A universal joint with O and N terminating the surface, (designed by K. E. Drexler and R. C. Merkle).

Drexler designed a differential gear, a pump, and a fine motion controller. Further information about these images is available from the IMM web site at

The NASA Nanotechnology Gallery has images of several graphite based designs. This includes fullerene gears, bearings, probes, etc.