Depicting the MIT Family Through Art and Science from 1861 to Present

Inside the laboratories of MIT.nano, researchers utilize silicon wafers as a foundation for developing groundbreaking technologies such as quantum circuitry, microfluidic devices, and energy-harvesting structures. However, these substrates also serve as an artistic medium, as demonstrated by MIT Professor W. Craig Carter in the latest One.MIT mosaic.

In the One.MIT initiative, the MIT community is honored by employing MIT.nano’s tools to etch their collective names onto a silicon wafer measuring just 8 inches in diameter. The most recent version of One.MIT features 339,537 names of individuals linked to MIT from 1861 to September 2023, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This display is now showcased in the ground-floor galleries of MIT.nano within the Lisa T. Su Building (Building 12).

Vladimir Bulović, the director of MIT.nano and the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Emerging Technology, remarks, “One.MIT commemorates the MIT ethos and underscores the fact that regardless of when we joined MIT or our respective roles, we all contribute to this extraordinary community.” He emphasizes the enduring legacy of innovation and problem-solving that defines MIT across decades.

A collaborative team comprising students, faculty, staff, and alumni meticulously engraved the design on the wafer within the pristine surroundings of the MIT.nano cleanrooms. Given that the names are extremely small, visible only under magnification as they measure in microns, the One.MIT website permits individuals to search for specific names and locate their position within the mosaic.

Exploring MIT’s Historical Archives

The initial two One.MIT art pieces, crafted in 2018 and 2020, were etched on silicon wafers measuring 6 inches in diameter, slightly smaller than the newest art piece. Leveraging the advanced capabilities of MIT.nano’s latest tools that accommodate 8-inch wafers, the latest design features iconic MIT imagery inspired by the Great Dome (2018) and the MIT seal (2020).

Professor W. Craig Carter, the Toyota Professor of Materials Processing and professor of materials science and engineering, devised the designs and algorithms for each iteration of One.MIT. His quest for inspiration for the 2024 design led him to the Institute Archives, where he uncovered a lithograph utilized for the 1916 MIT rededication ceremony program.

Showcasing Technical Brilliance at MIT

Professor Carter meticulously transformed the lithograph into a black-and-white image, recreating the architectural details and character elements. To address the challenge posed by the sky gradient’s limited shades, he devised a Hilbert curve technique that imparts dynamism and texture to the artwork.

By utilizing Schwarz-Christoffel mapping to reshape the square Hilbert curve into a circular format, Carter ingeniously incorporated a playful and ‘nerdy’ element, aligning with MIT’s spirit of innovation.

Emphasizing the merger of physics, engineering, mathematics, and geometry, Carter highlights the elegance of conformal mapping and its application in transforming square shapes into curved surfaces.

For enhanced readability and aesthetic appeal, Carter designed an algorithm that optimized the arrangement of the 6,476,403 characters within the mosaic to maximize surface coverage while avoiding name fragmentation.

Challenges in Curating Diverse MIT Community

Integrating a vast array of names spanning over a century and reflecting the rich diversity of MIT’s community, the One.MIT project faced substantial challenges during the data aggregation process. Annie Wang, research scientist and special projects coordinator for MIT.nano, navigated the complexities of consolidating names from disparate sources, cleaning up inconsistencies, and standardizing formats.

Despite the extensive experience gained from previous editions, organizing the vast array of names proved to be a laborious task due to variations in spellings, lengths, and overlapping entries across databases and scanned documents.

Professor Carter and Annie Wang collaborated to transmit the finalized design to Jorg Scholvin, associate director of fabrication at MIT.nano, who assembled a diverse team of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to realize the fabrication process within MIT.nano’s pristine environment.

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