October 19, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College


Chicken wire is great for describing graphene – it’s often used by scientists when talking about the new wonder-material.

Imagine there’s one atom of carbon at every point of every hexagon and that the wires are bonds joining the carbon atoms together.  Then imagine that the whole photograph is only a few nanometres across (1 nanometre = 0.000001mm).

In work published this week, the chicken wire/graphene analogy got even stronger.  Scientists at Kansas State University put graphene ‘fences’ around bacteria to protect them while making electron microscope images.

Electron microscopes can create a vacuum which sucks water out of microbes, causing them to deflate and provide unrealistic images.  Despite being transparent to light and electrons, graphene doesn’t let water – or any other molecule – through.  The graphene fence keeps everything where it should be and the scientists can capture the bacteria in all their turgid glory.