Graphene discovery earns Russian pair 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics

graphene, being two-dimensional material doesn't look like this

The discovery of graphene, the thinnest, strongest material known, earned two Russian scientists the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. Image: CC The Alieness Gisela Giardino/Flickr

Graphene is the thinnest, strongest material known to man that conducts electricity and heat better than any other substance. The discovery of graphene earned the $1.4 million 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for two Russian physicists conducting research in England. Experiments are being conducted by scientists around the world to determine practical graphene applications that include replacing silicon in computer chips, ultra-definition screens and new materials as yet unknown.

Graphene discovered with Scotch tape

Graphene was discovered by new Nobel laureates Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at Manchester University. The New York Times reports that while investigating the electrical properties of graphite, they tried peeling layers of it off with Scotch tape. They came up with a form of carbon a single atom thick. Graphene is so thin and strong, the Times said a sheet stretched over a coffee cup will support the weight of a truck bearing down on a pencil point. Graphene’s amazing ability to conduct electricity and heat could make silicon obsolete in computer chips, work as an ultra-sensitive pollution-monitoring material, revolutionize flat screen TVs and enable the exploration of new physics.

Graphene could change everyday life

Geim told CNN he envisioned that graphene applications could change everyday life much like plastic did. It is a two-dimensional material consisting of a hexagonal array of carbon atoms arranged like chicken wire. Graphene is “fundamentally different” from three dimensional graphite because it is flexible. According to Graphene Industries, which works closely with Geim, two-dimensional materials like graphene give scientists access to materials of any dimension, including zero-dimensional atoms and one-dimensional nanowires. Geim told CNN that it is impossible to describe the range of possible graphene applications.

Coming attractions in graphene technology

Laboratories are experimenting with graphene technology all over the world. PC World reports that scientists at University of California, Berkeley stretched graphene and noticed that it reacted as if it were exposed to a powerful magnetic field. This property of the material could have a major impact on how the smallest parts of electronic devices are built. Science reports that researchers in South Korea have figured out how to grow graphene in sheets big enough to make touch-screen displays twice as durable as the current technology.

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