Collecting invisible objects

We all know that museums collect objects and artefacts. But what about when that object or artefact is invisible? Now, there is a challenge!

But that’s exactly what we were faced with when trying to collect graphene for our new Science and Technology galleries. Once we had found a supplier who was kindly willing to donate a sample, there was just one snag: graphene is actually invisible to the naked eye! In fact, it is one million times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair!

Graphene is a thin layer of pure carbon – it’s made from a layer of carbon one-atom thick. With a range of attractive material properties, such as high strength (it is about 100 times stronger than strongest steel) and thermal and electrical conductivity, the application of graphene is under consideration in many research labs and board rooms. Potential graphene applications include lightweight, thin and flexible yet durable display screens, electric circuits, and solar cells. Various chemical and industrial processes can also be enhanced or enabled by the use of graphene and graphene-based materials.

Graphene on a disc
Graphene on a disc

Graphene on display is actually grafted on a silicon wafer disc (you can just about make the footprint outline in the photograph). You can “see” this truly amazing material for yourself in our new Science and Technology galleries from 8 July. Trust us, it is there!

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