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Geim and Novoselov Isolate Graphene, Win 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics

October 22, 2010
by agoldstein

It is 100 times stronger than steel and the best heat conductor known to man. Most people have produced this substance unwittingly, yet it could be used to substantially improve computer chips, solar cells, and even satellites.

What is this astonishing material?

The first truly 2-dimensional crystalline material: graphene.

This year, two pioneering physicists received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on graphene. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov originally discovered that graphene can be isolated as a stable sheet six years ago—back when many scientists did not believe such a thing was possible. Since then, Geim and Novoselov have authored numerous papers on the subject, including two articles for the Wiley journal Small.1,2

Graphene comes from graphite, the most common form of carbon. Graphite is composed of many layers of carbon, with each layer of carbon atoms forming hexagons. Graphene is simply a one-atom-thin sheet of graphite.

Geim and Novoselov were able to isolate single sheets of graphene using incredibly simple tools: a pencil and some Scotch tape. They used the pencil to write on a piece of paper, which cleaved the graphite from the tip into thin layers. Then, they used Scotch tape to lift the graphite from the paper and transferred these layers to a silicon substrate. By examining their samples under an Atomic Force Microscope, Geim and Novoselov were able to identify single layers of graphite—i.e. graphene. 3

Graphene is of particular interest to the physics and engineering communities because of the following properties:

  • It is 100 times stronger than steel.
  • It is 1 atom thin, making it two-dimensional and therefore the thinnest material available.
  • It conducts heat 10 times better than copper, making it the best known heat conductor.
  • It is so dense that not even Helium (the smallest gas atom) can pass through it.
  • It is flexible and almost completely transparent.

How will it be used?

The thinness, transparency, and conductivity of graphene make it an attractive material for use in applications such as touch screens, light panels, and solar cells. Its great strength and low weight also optimize it for use in satellites and aircraft.

Want to manipulate 3D carbon ring models? Explore the UVA Virtual Lab.

Resources from Wiley on This Topic
Chemistry of Nanocarbons edited by T. Akasaka, F. Wudl, and S. Nagase
Carbon Nanotubes and Related Structures: Synthesis, Characterization, Functionalization, and Applications edited by D. Guldi and N. Martín
Coming in Feb 2011: Raman Spectroscopy in Nanoscience and Nanometrology: Carbon Nanotubes, Nanographite and Graphene by A. Jorio, M. Dresselhaus, G. Dresselhaus

1. Tsoukleri, G., Parthenios, J., Papagelis, K., Jalil, R., Ferrari, A., Geim, A., Novoselov, K., & Galiotis, C. (2009). Subjecting a Graphene Monolayer to Tension and Compression Small, 5 (21), 2397-2402 DOI: 10.1002/smll.200900802

2. Neubeck, S., Ponomarenko, L., Freitag, F., Giesbers, A., Zeitler, U., Morozov, S., Blake, P., Geim, A., & Novoselov, K. (2010). From One Electron to One Hole: Quasiparticle Counting in Graphene Quantum Dots Determined by Electrochemical and Plasma Etching Small, 6 (14), 1469-1473 DOI: 10.1002/smll.201000291

3. Novoselov, K. (2004). Electric Field Effect in Atomically Thin Carbon Films Science, 306 (5696), 666-669 DOI: 10.1126/science.1102896

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