This wonder material discovered in Manchester is lighter than paper and 200 times stronger than steel

What is 200 times stronger than steel, lighter than paper and made in Manchester? The answer is graphene, the world’s first 2D material which which was separated from graphite at The University of Manchester in 2004 and is expected to be behind many inventions of the future.

Now there’s a whole exhibition dedicated to it – Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond at the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s a unique opportunity to get to grips with the story of graphene

Wonder Materials is a UK first and combines science, art and history, so the result isn’t just an exhibition, more an experience. The story of graphene is told interactively with a specially commissioned art installation, poetry from Lemn Sissay and a re-created White Room. This is a science lesson which definitely isn’t boring!

But why is graphene so special? Made from a single atom layer of carbon, it is invisible to the naked eye, but its super strength and conductivity give it the potential to change the world.

Pic Duncan Hull Creative Commons
Pic Duncan Hull Creative Commons

It could be the key to smart phones with foldable screens, medical equipment capable of saving many more lives and could even be used as a coating to help remove harmful carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by power stations. Not bad for a material one million times smaller than a human hair!

The exhibition is sponsored by Haydale who are aiming to commercialise graphene through cutting-edge technology. Highlights include a specially commissioned art installation, Everything and Nothing, and new documentary photography showing different uses of graphene across the world. You are invited to imagine remarkable graphene products of the future with an interactive feature  showcasing wearable technology and electricity-generating windows.

There’s even a soundtrack in the form of National Graphene Institute’s composer-in-residence Sara Lowes’ new musical work Graphene Suite! Local artist Mary Griffiths also adds to the mood of inventiveness with some art. She’s the force behind the huge patterned graphite wall which adorns the National Graphene Institute.

“The Museum of Science and Industry is a place which tells the story of how pioneering ideas can change the world, and this exhibition is a perfect of example of this,” says museum director Sally MacDonald. “We are really excited about getting people engaged in finding out more and discussing the opportunities and challenges of this intriguing subject.”

Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond makes its world premiere at The Museum of Science and Industry until 25 June 2017. Free.

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