The Department of Microscopic Marvels is thrilled to present these photos of the world’s smallest sandcastles, each one etched on a single grain of sand. Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz (previously featured here) collaborated with artist and MIT researcher Marcelo Coelho these impossibly tiny sandcastles. The process they used was a combination of both high-tech and old-fashioned methods and the result of 4 years of experimentation.

Muniz first drew each castle using a camera lucida, a 19th century optical tool that relies on a prism to project a reflection of whatever is in front of you onto paper where it can be traced. The drawings were then sent to Coelho who worked with a number of microscopic drawing processes for several years before deciding to use a Focused Ion Beam (FIB) which has the capability of creating a line only 50 nanometers wide (a human hair is about 50,000 nanometers wide).

Muniz then photographed each etched grain of sand and enlarged the images to create wall-size prints for exhibition. He said, “When someone tells you it’s a grain of sand, there’s a moment where your reality falls apart and you have to reconstruct it. You have to step back and ask what the image is and what it means.”

Muniz and Coelho’s microscopic sandcastles are currently on display at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art as part of a 25 year retrospective exhibit of Muniz’ artwork.

Click here for a Creator’s Project video about this astonishing project.

[via Colossal]