Written by Roy Turse
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Monday, 3 December 2012

image for Exciting new Graphene Art developed
A self portrait by the author using graphene imagery

For the last few years, scientists have been exploring the properties and possible uses of graphene, the new wonder material made of an atom-thick layer of carbon. It promises to herald a revolution in materials and electronics development.

However, a new use for graphene has been identified by artists experimenting with various new media forms. They found that when layers of graphene are built up on a white paper substrate, it becomes opaque and absorbs a quantity of the light that falls upon it. To the human eye, it appears as though the carbon coated areas are darker than the surroundings.

When the carbon is applied, the lattices of atoms tend to slide across one another until they adhere and as these build up they create a compound layer which absorbs more and more light. Thus a picture can be constructed using varying thicknesses of graphene to give varying degrees of shade.

In order to exploit this property to the full, artists have devised a way of compressing graphene into a 2mm thick column and encapsulating it in a wooden sleeve. When cut into 150mm lengths, this becomes a convenient way to store and handle the compacted graphene, or graphite as it is then known. The sharpened end of the rod can then be rubbed across the surface of the substrate, marking the surface by means of physical abrasion which transfers carbon from the rod to the surface.

Although at present this method can only produce pictures in monochrome grey-scale form, the medium is in its infancy and experiments with the addition of coloured pigments to the graphite devices are already underway.

It is hoped that one day, an artist using a range of coloured graphite rod implements will be able to make a reasonable reproduction of a photographic image, and could even add embellishments that do not exist in the original. This lends itself to interesting and imaginative applications which could exceed those of conventional photographic picture making.

Whilst all this seems to be a flight of fancy today, new developments in graphene technology are appearing all the time. The high cost of production of graphene is a limiting factor at present, but it turns out that not all graphite needs to be derived from compressed graphene, so cost reductions will be possible. Undoubtedly, as graphene art develops over the next few years, it will be an exciting time for artists everywhere.

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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