Nanotechnology, for the uninitiated, is applied science on
an atomic and molecular scale. Objects that are created
are tiny - 100 nanometers or smaller. And their
application appears limited only to the imagination of
their creators - textiles, food science, automotive and
aerospace industries among them.
When Heiss came on board
last year, molecular engineers at NanoVic had already
designed a button-sized device called the MicroArray
Patch which could administer insulin through thousands
of tiny needles when applied to the skin.
As the institute’s inaugural
artist-in-residence, she incorporated the patch into her
jewellery designs. A skater-style wrist cuff made from
silk organza; chunky unisex rings with cut-out designs
in cast silver; and retro clip-on earrings designed
especially for older women.
Heiss believes that when
loaded with insulin, the jewellery could replace the
need for traditional injections.
“Each piece has a wearable
applicator device,” she says. “A necklace which allows
you to administer the patches to the skin and a series
of rings which hold the patches in place once they have
been administered. The clip-on earrings house a patch
which presses it to the back of the earlobe.”
“The idea of being able to
replace something as invasive as a syringe with
technology that is less invasive is exciting,” she says.
“But I wanted to explore how you can augment personal
artifacts like a ring or necklace with therapeutic
qualities. Some people might want to keep their medical
condition private. But on the other hand people might
become proud to wear something that symbolizes the fact
that they have this condition and that is not ugly. It’s
about using your jewellery in a different way.”
As part of her residency at
NanoVic, Heiss has also has created a necklace that can
remove arsenic from water in the developing world. The
neckpiece contains the chemical mesoporous iron oxide,
built-in tweezers for adding it to water and an
electroluminescent cable that provides light at night.
Heiss hopes it may one day be used by people traveling
through countries such as Bangladesh, India and the US.
“There are a lot of
countries that have arsenic in well-water,” she says.
“It’s a really shocking scenario that is not widely
reported. This is personal device that you can carry
around with you, without relying on governments to
implement filtration systems.”