A cover illustration based on a research article about the helium atom scattering technique.
Quantum physics researcher Martin Tømterud and colleagues conducted a series of experiments to test the flexibility of silica materials using the helium scattering technique. They discovered that a thin layer of silica poked with nanoholes keeps its qualities just as well as a similar layer without holes. However, the nanoholes let the material become more flexible. This research can, for example, contribute to the evolution of bendable mobile devices.

However, the article's main focus is rather on the handiness of the helium scattering technique in this and similar research. Essentially, the technique allows measuring the rigidity of super thin layers of different materials, testing their flexibility on the quantum scale.
The researchers asked me to illustrate their article to use this illustration as the cover of the August issue of the PCCP journal. My main task here was to understand the general meaning of this research as well as the main point that the authors wanted me to convey in the picture. The authors' wish was that the picture should be precise but funny.

After talking to the authors and making a series of sketches, we pinpointed the main elements that needed to be shown in the picture: the helium atoms (the blue characters), the substrate of silica with nanoholes vibrating while being bombarded with the helium atoms, and the incoming and outgoing waves clearly indicating the change in vibrations from the incoming atoms to the rebounding atoms.

The journal issue and the article were published in August 2022 and are in open access.
You can find the whole issue here: PCCP Issue 30.
The article is available here: Variation of bending rigidity with material density: bilayer silica with nanoscale holes.
And here is the published cover of the issue: PCCP Issue 30, front cover.
• Read and understand the essence of the research article.
• Talk to the authors and understand the main idea that needs to be conveyed by the picture.
• Make an illustration of the incoming and rebounding groups of helium atoms, and give them character. Draw an accurate representation of the silica substrate and show that it is vibrating. Show the vibrations of the atoms as the background waves.
• Create a harmonious color palette that would also bear some of the meaning of the elements (waves intensity shown as colder blues and warmer oranges, helium atoms shown as conventional light blue circles, atoms' electrons shine yellow, etc.).
• Prepare the picture for print.

rough sketch 1

rough sketch 2

Silica substrate vibration variations.

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