Atom Shifter

Atom Shifter
Steve Paterson

Atom Shifter, 2021

Dedicated to R. C. Wiley, founder of Cal Poly’s Metallurgical Engineering Department

Artist: S. Paterson (b. 1955) Cal Poly Class of 1980

Size: 64” x 31” x 76” mild steel and austenitic stainless steel

About the installation: This sculpture depicts two common atomic arrangements of iron: face-centered cubic (FCC) and body-centered cubic (BCC), both magnified about 1.7 billion times. Iron changes its atomic arrangement when heated, when cooled at different rates, or when subjected to large pressure changes. Metallurgists can control the atomic arrangement to create a variety of iron-based materials with a wide range of properties. The rust-colored atomic arrangement is BCC and is fabricated from mild steel which has a BCC structure at room temperature. The shiny atomic arrangement is FCC and is fabricated from austenitic stainless steel which has an FCC structure at room temperature.

Fabrication Team: S. Paterson, R. Adams, N. Stenton Donated June 2021 by Welding & Metallurgical Engineering Alumni

Making of video:

Located adjacent to building 41A

College of Engineering
Object Identifier (Accession #):
© Steve Paterson, reproduced with permission from the artist. The images associated with the objects on this website are protected under United States copyright laws. We are pleased to share these materials as an educational resource for the public for non-commercial, educational and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by law. Videography & photography: Jett Witlin, ART ‘22

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