Graphene scoops the physics Nobel

05 October 2010

This year's Nobel prize for physics has been awarded to Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov for the discovery of graphene - single-atom-thick layers of carbon. The researchers from the University of Manchester, UK, were awarded the prize, worth SEK10 million (937,000), for their finding that flakes of the material can be pulled from graphite using sticky tape.

The discovery was made by chance in what Novoselev describes as a 'fun Friday afternoon project'. But it quickly spawned a huge field of research, as the unique properties of graphene were explored and exploited. 'Graphene is a marvellous material to work with,' says Novoselov. 'Anybody can do it - which is probably why it has spread so widely so quickly.'

Andre Geim and Konstya Novoselov

Andre Geim (left) and Konstya Novoselov (right) discovered a way to make graphene by peeling sticky tape off graphite

© Sergeom, Wikimedia Commons and University of Manchester, UK

Graphene combines a huge variety of physical and chemical properties in a single material, adds Novoselov. This makes it suitable for a wide range of applications - not least in electronics, sensing and fundamental studies of the way electrons behave when confined in two dimensions. 

Alan Usher, director of the Centre for Graphene Research in the UK, says he is not surprised by the award. 'For decades graphene was seen as a purely theoretical interest because in the 1930s it was predicted that it couldn't be stable,' he says. 'But Geim and Novoselov decided not to believe the theory and just tried it for themselves.' He adds that the simplicity of the 'sticky-tape' technique they employed only makes the discovery more remarkable: 'That's the kind of science that really deserves recognition.'

Single sheet of graphene
Graphene is a single atom thick layer of carbon

Novosolev and Usher agree that the future of graphene technology lies in being able to make large scale devices. They point towards work by Jong-Hyun Ahn and Byung Hee Hong of Sungkyunkwan University, Korea, who made a 30-inch transparent graphene film and a functional touchscreen display earlier this year. 'That pretty much enables any kind of device fabrication,' says Usher.

Novoselov is enthusiastic about the future for graphene research: 'We have a fantastic time playing with graphene,' he says. 'Every day we go into the laboratory something new comes out.'

Phillip Broadwith


Interesting? Spread the word using the 'tools' menu on the left.

Also of interest

Graphene based touchscreen

First graphene touchscreen

20 June 2010

Researchers have made a 30-inch touch-screen based on layers of graphene - sheets of carbon a single atom thick

2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Chemistry of life wins Nobel

07 October 2009

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath win Nobel prize for chemistry for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome


Graphene to graphane by chemical conversion

29 January 2009

Graphene can be reversibly converted into its electrically insulating alter ego, graphane

The graphine challenge

The graphene challenge

Atom-thin sheets of carbon are taking the materials world by storm. Richard Van Noorden discovers that now is the perfect time for chemists to join the party

MC10 Logo

10th International Conference on Materials Chemistry (MC10)

4 - 7 July 2011, University of Manchester, U.K. Andre Geim will give a plenary lecture at this flagship event of the RSC Materials Chemistry Division.

Related Links

Link icon Comment on this story at the Chemistry World blog
Read other posts and join in the discussion

External links will open in a new browser window