The day the discoverer of graphene made a pyrotechnic show thanks to him

The day the discoverer of graphene made a pyrotechnic show thanks to him

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov , scientists at the University of Manchester (UK), were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their fundamental experiments on the two-dimensional material graphene."

Since then, graphene has been the fashionable material, and the one that has sparked the most speculation, although none has materialized commercially. Still, perhaps Novoselov was the one who used his own discovery in a truly poetic way .


Novoselov has not only used graphene ink in his paintings (he is a great artist in the field of traditional Chinese painting) because he ensures that its color is different from conventional ink, but he also used graphene to promote an art gallery.

Joining her efforts with those of Cornelia Parker , one of Britain’s most acclaimed artists, she conceived an exhibition for the opening of the Whitworth Art Gallery . Graphene was the material that had been used to build a sensor that would activate the exhibition; an ultra-sensitive sensor that reacted to moisture, so Konstantin just breathed a bit of breath into it to get the show going. The most striking thing, however, was the origin of the graphene: it had been obtained by exfoliating graphite from a drawing by William Blake .

80937006 Blake1

They also ended up taking graphite from the drawings of other prominent artists, such as John Constable, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Mallord William Turner or Thomas Girtin. Finally, they also extracted graphite from a letter written in pencil by Ernest Rutherford , whose work on atomic structure was pioneering.

Barely microscopic amounts (flakes less than 100 microns) were removed from each of the drawings, so they weren’t marring them in any way that was visually perceptible. The graphite taken from the works of art was such a tiny speck that no one would be able to detect that it was missing .

80555288 Dsc 0171

The fireworks display had been designed by Parker, who had added chunks of meteoric iron from an Arizona meteorite . Parker had been inspired by Blake’s 1973 poem America a Prophecy in which he wrote about "red meteors" and "wandering comets." "In a way this fireworks display will be a Blakeian fireworks display," Parker noted.

It was like reviving the old drawings of the old masters and giving them a second life in the form of a fireworks display. It was a way of mixing art and science that seemed deeply poetic to him. But it was also a way of drawing the attention of the world, through lights and noise, that graphene could change much of the technology that we use every day .