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By Sarah Baines on

Introducing… Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond

This summer, the Museum of Science and Industry is launching Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond, an exhibition all about graphene, a tiny but mighty material.

Please note: Wonder Materials ended on 25 June 2017. To find out what exhibitions and activities are open today, visit our What’s On section

Wonder Materials banner
You may have heard of graphene, but you won’t have seen it or touched it. How much do you really know about this wonder material, which was born right here in Manchester?

Graphene: tiny but mighty

Graphene is a completely flat single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Millions of layers of graphene make up the more familiar graphite, the material found in pencils. It has been studied since 1947, but for many years scientists didn’t think that its flat shape would be stable, and they were unable to isolate a single layer to test it.

Geim and NovoselovHowever, in 2004, with open minds and a playful approach to experimentation, two scientists in Manchester – Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov – became the first to isolate the material.

They peeled flakes of graphene from graphite using ordinary sticky tape, allowing it to be tested for the first time. Upon examining the super-flat, stretchy, flexible flakes of graphene, they found that the material is (for its size) stronger than steel, harder than diamond and more conductive than copper.

Since it hit the international science scene, the material has been big news, and there are plenty of superlatives surrounding graphene to get excited about. It led to Nobel Prizes for Geim and Novoselov, huge investment, a worldwide research boom and a great deal of excitement about how it will change the world.

Our exhibition

NGI 2Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond will take visitors on a journey from the origin story of graphene through to the current reality of research and applications, and looks ahead to its future impact, asking how graphene might change our lives.

On every level, graphene is hard to grasp. It’s a nano-material about 1 million times thinner than a human hair. So, how do you make an exciting exhibition about something museum visitors can’t even see, let alone touch?

Well, in addition to providing an insight into the science behind graphene, we’ve also brought together the work of poets, artists and musicians that have been inspired by the material, in order to bring its story and potential to life.

Human curiosity made graphene happen. In this exhibition, we explore the idea that, much like art and poetry, science is a creative endeavour. With the help of a little imagination, we are now able to explore the full potential of this wonder material.

Find out more about Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond – on display from 23 July 2016 to 25 June 2017.

Featured image credit: Angela Moore

Geim and Novoselov image credit: Yana Audas

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