Until now, most knew Vik Muniz as the São Paulo-born artist who transformed pieces of scrap metal, garbage, and otherwise inconsequential materials into large-scale works of art. Obsessed with the seemingly trivial, Muniz decided to switch things up a bit in his latest collaboration with fellow artist and MIT researcher Marcelo Coelho. Instead of gathering materials to form a massive sculpture or installation, Muniz zeros in on the microscopic, etching enormous sandcastles onto single grains of sand. 

The highly complicated project took four years of trial and error. To create one of these minuscule monuments also required the use of both archaic and modern-day technology. First, Muniz drafted his composition of castles using something called a camera lucida, an school optical tool which projects whatever is in front of the artist onto paper to be traced.

Afterwards, Muniz sent his sketches to Coelho, who then fiddled with the drawings, experimenting with a bunch of microscopic drawing processes for four years. Eventually, Coelho successfully produced one of these miniature sand castles using a Focused Ion Beam, a device that's able to produce lines only 50 nanometers wide. For context, a strand of human hair is approximately 50,000 nanometers wide, so you can only imagine how delicate these lines are. 

If you're still scratching your heads in confusion, just watch this documentary Intel and Vice teamed up to create, below. Prepare to have your minds blown by their final creations and elaborate process.

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[via TheCreatorsProject]