Nov 27 2010



This project which I call “Big Kahuna Inc.” is a work of design fiction that I created for the Visual Culture & Design Course.


The following set of images is how I would represent the path taken in the Visual Culture and Design course to get to this project.

Introduction to Typography

Learn how to Analyze Images

Analyze Images from Nanotechnology

Introduction to Information Design

Create Timeline of Nanotechnology

Design Fiction used for about creative provocation

Final Product


Assuming that researchers in these areas would be successful in their endeavor in a few years, I speculate that we might end up doing promoting consumerism in Plethora similar to the way we have promoted it on Earth.
I am a huge fan of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The satire in Douglas Adams’s writings are quite incredible and that is something that I would want to achieve either through my sketches, or videos or any other creations. Also, I have stayed in the United States for more than 15 months now. My experiences and observations during this time have also shaped a lot of my ideas in the story. I hail from India, and the culture in the States is an interesting contrast to the culture where I have been born and brought up. So, this was a fantastic opportunity to create a work of design fiction based on research on Nanotechnology and marry it with the ideas that had been running in my mind.


I had to research the applications of Nanotechnology in various fields. I was interested in the idea of space travel and how humans would exist in other planets. I dived deep into understanding how Nanotechnology was enabling engineers and scientists working to make space travel possible. The images related to that are captured here. Then as my story matured, I spent time researching about applications of Nanotechnology in Food and Packaging, Cosmetics. The Nanotechnology references in my story are well researched, except for the iPod Nano capsule.


The Space Elevator

Wikipedia states that

A space elevator for Earth would consist of a cable anchored to the Earth’s surface, reaching into space. By attaching a counterweight at the end (or by further extending the cable for the same purpose), inertia ensures that the cable remains stretched taut, countering the gravitational pull on the lower sections, thus allowing the elevator to remain in geostationary orbit. Once beyond the gravitational midpoint, carriages would be accelerated further by the planet’s rotation.

Almost every conceptual design of a space elevator has the following 4 parts:

The Base Station

Base Station: The base station will be a mobile/stationary platform that will secure the cable on Earth.

Carbon Nanotubes

Cable: The cable must be made of a material with a large tensile strength/mass ratio. It should support its own weight and the entire weight of the climber. A space elevator would need a material capable of sustaining 4,960 kilometers (3082 mi) of its own weight at sea level to reach a geostationary altitude of 36,000 km (22,300 mi) without tapering. This is at least necessary value, and about 50,000 kN/(kg/m) if it shows by specific strength. Therefore, a material with very high strength and lightness is needed.
Enter Carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are the strongest and stiffest materials yet discovered in terms of tensile strength and elastic modulus respectively. The current (2009) technology allows growing tubes up to a few tens of centimeters. This limit can be mitigated by spinning nanotubes into a yarn, but at the price of lowering the cable strength.

The Climber

Climbers: A space elevator cannot be an elevator in the typical sense (with moving cables) due to the need for the cable to be significantly wider at the center than the tips. While various designs employing moving cables have been proposed, most cable designs call for the “elevator” to climb up a stationary cable. The conductivity of another set of cables made of carbon nanotubes can be utilized to power these climbers.

The Counterweight

Counterweight: An asteroid or a space station positioned past the geostationary orbit can be used as a counterweight. Another idea is that the cable itself can extend far beyond the geostationary orbit. (Wikipedia)

NASA is investing a lot of money in researching the area of Space Travel. This can soon become a reality! More details in this exciting video .


Food Processing

Food Processing

Micro and Nano-sieve membranes can be applied in food processing. These nano-sieves can be used for filtration of beer or maybe even milk for cheese production. In future, they may also be used for preparing water-filled fat colloids to produce low fat milk with the same taste as full fat milk which could then be used in creamy low fat ice cream. These can also be utilized for encapsulating food ingredients like minerals in a coating of another ingredient to increase take up by the body to avoid the loss of these ingredients during cooking. (NanoBio-RAISE)

Novel foods

Low Fat Ice Creams will taste better

Food and nutrition companies anticipate a great deal of progress in Nanotechnology based novel food products. In novel foods, the ingredients which naturally occur in food are adapted for better taste, digestion or to address the specific nutrition needs of special groups such as babies, elderly or patients. Low fat milk, cheese and ice cream with the same taste as full fat products have already been mentioned. A Hungarian company has developed an ice gel for soft drinks or ice-cream. (NanoBio-RAISE)

The jelly-like ice gel consists of very small ice crystals containing even tinier bubbles of carbon dioxide. The CO2 bubbles are 1-10 nanometres in diameter, much smaller than CO2 bubbles in soft drinks. In the mouth, the ice gel causes a feeling similar to effervescent tablets.

Food Additives

Tip Top Bread from Australia

At present, some food additives with nanoingredients (according to claims by the producers) are being sold in the USA and Germany. These additives are made of minerals with a nano-formulation, such as silicon dioxide, magnesium, calcium, etc. They are chiefly aimed at the diet, sports and health food markets. The particle size of these minerals is claimed to be smaller than 100 nanometre so they can pass through the stomach wall and into body cells more quickly than ordinary minerals with larger particle size. Nano-additives can also be incorporated in micelles or capsules of protein or another natural food ingredient. Micelles are tiny spheres of oil or fat coated with a thin layer of bipolar molecules of which one end is soluble in fat and the other in water. The micelles are suspended in water, or conversely, water is encapsulated in micelles and suspended in oil. Such nanocapsules can for example contain healthy Omega3 fish oil which has a strong and unpleasant taste and only release it in the stomach such as in “Tip Top Up”® bread sold in Australia. (NanoBio-RAISE)

Will Tang be a Smart Drink in the Future?

Kraft and Nestlé are designing smart foods that will interact with the end users to customize food, odor, flavor or nutrients, color based on their choice. Kraft is developing a clear tasteless drink that contains hundreds of flavours in latent nanocapsules. A microwave could be used to trigger release of the colour, flavour, concentration and texture of the individual’s choice. Smart foods would be able to sense if the consumer was allergic to its ingredients and block the offending ingredient. Also, smart packaging can release extra dose of nutrients to people who have special dietary needs, for example calcium molecules to people suffering from osteoporosis. (Miller)

Encapsulated Food

Nanotechnology-based encapsulation can be used to get essential nutrients into the body efficiently

Dr Frans Kampers, an expert in Food and Nanotechnology, says

Nanotechnology can provide microsized containers that can contain various nutrients. The supramolecular structures used for this purpose can mask undesired flavors that would spoil the flavor of the product, can protect the substances from inactivation, can improve the bio-availability of the nutrients and can deliver them to specific parts of the Gastro-Intestinal tract where they are most effective. Creating these structures in a cost effective way is not trivial and requires intricate knowledge of self-assembly mechanisms. At Wageningen UR (Physical and Colloid Chemistry) fundamental research is being done to understand these mechanisms and to find new ways to create these innovative encapsulation systems.

(2020 Science)


Packaged Fruits with Indicators

Current and near term applications of Nanotechnology in the packaging industry are mainly in 3 areas:

  1. Barrier – to protect the contents of the package from oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, UV radiation
  2. Improve characteristics like strength, heat resistance, stiffness
  3. For communicating ripeness of fruits like ripeSense (Ripesense), or freshness/contamination of the packaged contents.

A Helmut Kaiser Consultancy study in 2005 showed that Nano-related food and beverage packaging sales was around $860million in 2004. (Selke)
Success of packaging materials for fresh products totally depends on the control of internal gas composition (O2, CO2 pt) and water loss in packaging. Nanopackaging can create a modified atmosphere in packaging with controlled gaseous exchange, so that, for example, the shelf life of vegetables may be increased to weeks. Food will be fresh even after a long time because of the silicate nanoparticles to provide a barrier to gases (for example oxygen), or moisture in a plastic film used for packaging. This could reduce the possibly of food spoiling or drying out. The plastic of drink bottles can contain clay nanoparticles to keep oxygen or water vapour in or out. Zinc oxide nanoparticles can be incorporated into plastic packaging to block UV rays and provide anti bacterial protection, while improving the strength and stability of the plastic film. (NanoBio-RAISE)


No more rough features

Nanochemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. The concept of molecular recognition is especially intriguing: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to intermolecular forces. This is among the properties that can be translated to cosmetic products or procedures; the creation of nanosheets (“sheets” of atoms that form ultra- thin, perfectly smooth surfaces) might be employed to create a smooth veneer over unsightly human features. (Chapman)
ObservatoryNANO’s research explains the 2 main uses of nanotechnology in cosmetics.

The first of these is the use of nanoparticles as UV filters. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) are the main compounds used in these applications. Organic alternatives to these have also been developed. The second use is nanotechnology for delivery. Liposomes and niosomes are used in the cosmetic industry as delivery vehicles. Newer structures such as solid lipid nanoparticles (SLN) and nanostructured lipid carriers (NLC) have been found to be better performers than liposomes. In particular, NLCs have been identified as a potential next generation cosmetic delivery agent that can provide enhanced skin hydration, bioavailability, stability of the agent and controlled occlusion. Encapsulation techniques have been proposed for carrying cosmetic actives. Nanocrystals and nanoemulsions are also being investigated for cosmetic applications. Patents have been filed for the application of dendrimers in the cosmetics industry.

L’Oréal has a number of Nanotechnology-related products in the market and ranks 6th (as of April 2009) in US in the number of nanotech related patents in US. L’Oréal researchers have been tinkering with nanotech since the 1980s. The company’s first nanoproducts, introduced about 15 years ago, were nanosomes, tiny capsule-like structures that transport active ingredients, such as vitamins, into the skin’s outer layer, and then release them. Nanosomes and similar agents, known generally as nanosystems, are used in skin creams such as L’Oréal’s RevitaLift. As long as there’s a chance nanoscience can unlock the secrets of youth and beauty, companies such as L’Oréal should have no trouble attracting customers. (BusinessWeek)

The above research enabled me to understand the fundamental uses of Nanotechnology. It was vital for me to understand this before creating this piece of design fiction. The uses of Nanotechnology shown in the video are a fictional extension of the current state of the art in this field.


Initially, I was interested in exploring how we, the current breed of humans, would react if we were able to go to a different planet and settle down. Hence, I did a lot of my research on how Nanotechnology could make space travel possible. The images related to that are captured here

Initial Research

One of the facets that I wanted to explore was how would the current crop manage our lives in another planet without smartphones, connectivity to the internet, away from virtual farms. One idea that I was really keen on pursuing was sending Calvin to space using the Space Elevator and create a cartoon strip based on that. However that did not materialize.

What should the final product have?

I was still contemplating about the final product that I would create. I explored if I could create some intelligent device or product that we would find useful in outer space. So then it would be a great exercise to explore how the product can be feasible. I also considered creating some information brochure or a marketing gig for a travel agency, who were trying to get customers to travel to outer space.

What should the final product be?

None of them were as convincing as the ideas I had for a story. I was able to start off with the idea of a big company trying to spoil a beautiful place by making it more “consumer-friendly”.

Building the Story – 1

Building the Story – 2

Once, I had the story in place, the best way to represent it I thought would a video. I decided to create a video of still images and have a voiceover for the narration. I created a slideshow in Powerpoint so that I could narrate as if I was the CFO of Big Kahuna Inc. giving a presentation to the shareholders. Some of the ways I thought of representing the text and images in my slideshow.

Initial Sketches of Slide Layout

I tried this one,

Initial Design of Slide

And finally fixed on this layout after trying out all layouts

Final Design of Slide

From the design critique, I got feedback and ideas on how to make the connection to Nanotechnology even stronger. That led to me adding the concept of a joint merger of Big Kahuna Inc. and Apple Nano

Marriage of Burgers & Nanotechnology

I searched a lot for getting really good images. Flickr and the advanced image search on Google being my best friends. I got most of the images that were 720px by 540px (standard template size of Powerpoint slide). Once I had the images, I used the Camtasia Recorder to take the screencast of the Powerpoint presentation. Thanks to my TA, Chris, who has an awesome recording studio at home, I was able to record the voice-over. (I think an American voice-over would have been more authentic, thats for version 2.0). Using Camtasia I produced the final video, which can be downloaded from here
I did not include exact Nanotechnology definitions in the video (it would not have gone well with the sales presentation), but all the ideas in it were extrapolated from the research that I did.

This was my first attempt at Design Fiction. I hope you enjoyed it. :)


Smitherman, David “Space Elevators – An Advanced Earth-Space Infrastructure for the New Millennium”,

Al Globus; David Bailey, Jie Han, Richard Jaffe, Creon Levit, Ralph Merkle, and Deepak Srivastava. “NAS-97-029: NASA Applications of Molecular Nanotechnology”,

NanoBio-RAISE, “Nanotechnology and food”,


Selke, Susan E, Nanotechnology and Agrifood Packaging:Applications and Issues, School of Packaging Michigan State University

Chapman, Ben “Blanket Example”,

ObservatoryNANO, Nanotechnology in Cosmetics

BusinessWeek, “Nano, Nano On the Wall..” , Business Week, 12 December 2005.

2020 Science, A clear perspective on emerging science and technology,

Miller, Georgia, “Nanotechnology – the new threat to food”, Global Research, October 30, 2008

Understanding Nano,


Nov 1 2010


The slide show below shows the concept that I have come up with for my final project. The final artifact will be a video with still images, text and voice over.
The idea is to make it as satirical and humorous as possible. I have to blend in more nanotechnology facts into the presentation.

The link below is my background research and ideas for a project on Nanotechnology and Space Travel.
The idea is not yet finalized and nor is the form factor of the end product. This is just the initial research and whatever ideas I had in my mind for a project.