May 24, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

New Graphene Artworks Used Laser-Induced Graphene Instead of Ink

May 02, 2019 04:41 PM EDT

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Joseph Cohen, an artist working with Rice University, gave the term "electrifying art" a whole new meaning. His graphene-inspired landscaped called "Where Do I Stand?" can literally deliver a jolt.

The chemist James Tour from the Rice University lab introduced laser-induced graphene or LIG in 2014, and now they are making art with the new technique, which involves converting carbon into other material or a common polymer into flakes of graphene that are in a microscopic level.

Laser-induced graphene can conduct electricity and it is metallic, the flakes that are interconnected can be used effectively as a wire that could bring power to electronic artworks. The paper in the ACS or American Chemical Society journal titled "Graphene Art" lays out how the Rice University lab and Joseph Cohen, a Houston artist, and co-author, created LIG prints and portraits, including the talked about artwork, "Where Do I Stand?"

Although the work is not electrified, Cohen said there is a future possibility that it will be.

"That's what I would like to do," he said. "Not make it kitsch or play off the novelty, but to have it have some true functionality that allows greater awareness about the material and opens up the experience."

Cohen made the design in an illustration program and he sent it to Tour's lab in Rice University since they have an industrial engraving laser. They use the laser to make LIG on different materials. The industrial engraving laser burned Cohen's fine lines into the substrate that are in an archive-quality paper and treated with a fire retardant.

The artwork, which was a part of Cohen's exhibit at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative last year, showed the depths of what we might see in a field of LIG when it is shrunken to a nanoscale with overlapping hexagons, which are the basic lattice of atom-thick graphene, disappearing into the distance.

"You're looking at this image of a 3-D foam matrix of laser-induced graphene and it's actually made of LIG," he said. "I didn't base it on anything; I was just thinking about what it would look like. When I shared it with Jim, he said, 'Wow, that's what it would look like if you could really blow this up.'"

Cohen said his art is about media specificity. "In terms of the artistic application, you're not looking at a representation of something, as traditionally we would in the history of art," he said. "Each piece is 100% original. That's the key."

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