ART THAT MIGHT HELP DE­TECT CAN­CER

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - HOW YOUR WORLD WORKS -

IT’S HARD TO GET PEO­PLE to care about car­bon nan­otubes, says Hous­ton-based artist Joseph Co­hen, be­cause they’re so small you can’t even see them. And yet the op­ti­cal prop­er­ties of th­ese exquisitely tiny cylin­ders of car­bon atoms make them ideal for can­cer-sens­ing im­plants. Since 2015, Co­hen has worked as an artistin-res­i­dence at Me­mo­rial Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­tre in New York City, learn­ing how to sep­a­rate nan­otubes into dif­fer­ent nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring atomic for­ma­tions, called chi­ral­i­ties, that emit dif­fer­ent colours when zapped with in­frared light. When sorted by for­ma­tion, nan­otubes are most ef­fec­tive at de­tect­ing can­cer, but it’s not an easy task. To build ex­cite­ment for nan­otubes, and get more sci­en­tists sort­ing them, Co­hen is work­ing on a se­ries of paint­ings made out of nan­otubes that change ap­pear­ance un­der in­frared light. The paint­ings go on view at Rice Univer­sity in Hous­ton this Novem­ber.

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