Discovering graphene and other miracle materials at the Hong Kong Science Museum

Discovering graphene and other miracle materials at the Hong Kong Science Museum

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Enter the world of graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms linked in a hexagonal lattice.
Photo: Hong Kong Science Museum

The joy of discovery never gets old, whether it’s discovering a new song, or watching babies take their first steps, discovery is what opens our minds to new and exciting things. Some discoveries can be life-changing, not only to one or two people, but possibly to the whole world. The Wonder Materials – Graphene & Beyond exhibition at the Hong Kong Science Museum, showing from now until April 18, allows us to learn about 2D materials, such as graphene, and how they can drastically change the world we live in. 

Ms Paulina Chan, curator of the exhibition, holding an energy-saving, long-lasting graphene light bulb.
Photo: Hong Kong Science Museum

As you enter the exhibition gallery, beautiful hexagonal models on the walls illustrate how carbon atoms are bonded to form graphene – a flexible, ultra-thin, lightweight and incredibly durable material that is 200 times stronger than steel, and also an excellent conductor and highly transparent. Playing in the background of the gallery is one of six graphene-themed songs created by a resident artist at the National Graphene Institute in the UK. 

This seemingly magical material was observed through electron microscopes in 1962, but back then scientists were unable to isolate graphene from graphite. It wasn’t until 2004 that the feat was successfully performed by two researchers at University of Manchester – professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov – with the “Scotch-tape method” inspired by one of their “Friday night experiments”.

Geim and Novoselov went on to publish papers about their discovery which eventually led to their winning of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. Ten years prior to that, Geim had won an Ig Nobel Prize, a parody of the prestigious Nobel Prize to honour scientific researches that are considered absurd yet thought-provoking, for levitating a live frog with magnets. He is the only scientist to date to have received accolades in both Prizes. Geim is keen to encourage curiosity-driven research and said that he values both his Ig Nobel Prize and Nobel Prize equally.

Graphene has many practical applications in the real world.
Photo: Hong Kong Science Museum

The exhibition at the Hong Kong Science Museum takes you on a scientific journey that begins with Geim and Novoselov’s discovery. It then walks you through the creative ways of how graphene is currently studied in laboratories and also its real-world applications and products. The exhibition will then take you into the imagined future of graphene and other 2D materials with graphene light bulbs, a flexible electro-luminescent display, graphene-enabled ion exchange membranes for desalinating water and a graphene biosensor.

Wonder Materials – Graphene & Beyond features over 100 exhibits and atomic models that hails from the collections of the Natural History Museum of London and the London Science Museum, as well as interactive activities and video footage (see the levitating frog video!). 

The Hong Kong Science Museum offers the public a learning platform for scientific discoveries and the important changes they bring about in our lives. In this new exhibition, join scientists on the journey to explore these wonder materials and their ability to re-shape the way we design, engineer and manufacture the future.

Visit the exhibition website here.


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