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This image is a true color image of oxidized copper on a sapphire substrate. The vivid change in color is associated with changing thickness of the copper. The brighter snowflake shapes on the copper are grapheme that has begun to grow on the surface. Graphene is visible because it provides an oxidation barrier, sealing off the copper surface from the air during oxidation, leaving shiny copper underneath.
Journalists wishing to reproduce this image for news stories about related research should include the following image credit: David Miller, Mark Keller, Kyle Diederichsen and the NIST Precision Imaging Facility.