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Bacteria on graphene oxide

Izzat Suffian, Kuo-Ching Mei, Houmam Kafa and Khuloud T Al-Jamal, King’s College London

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

Two rod-shaped bacteria sit on an extremely thin sheet of graphene. This material is a sheet of carbon one atom thick, and has been described as a wonder material as it is one of the thinnest, strongest materials so far discovered and conducts electricity more efficiently than copper.

The bacteria seen here were wrapped up in the graphene sheet by chance when non-sterile water was used in an experiment. Researchers are trying to stick different medicines to this material so they can be carried to the right place in the body when needed – for example, using antimicrobial drugs to kill bacteria or anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells.

Each bacterium is approximately 2 micrometres (0.002 mm) long.

Imaging technique: transmission electron microscopy

A beam of electrons is passed through an ultra-thin section of the specimen to provide information on its structure. This information is used to create a greyscale replica of the sample, which can then be digitally coloured.

Location where image was created

London, UK

Why did the judges choose this image?

“I was particularly struck by the image of two bacteria on a sheet of graphene. This recently developed material, only one carbon atom thick, has massive potential for use in many fields. Here, the hugely magnified bacteria contrast in their simplicity with the intricate translucent creases of the graphene, which seem on a totally different scale. It immediately shows the nature of this ground-breaking material.”

Catherine Draycott, Head of Wellcome Images

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