Graphene Researchers Win 2010 Nobel Prize For Physics

 

Dr Konstantin Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim  won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research on graphene, the world’s thinnest material, at The University of Manchester. The award of the Nobel Prize is sweet music to the ears of researchers at Manchester University who welcome two more Nobel laureates into their midst – giving the university a staggering four Nobel Prize winners among its researchers.

Dr Konstantin Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim

Graphene was discovered at the university in 2004. It has rapidly become one of the hottest topics in materials science and solid-state physics. It is the strongest and thinnest material known to mankind – a potential building block for faster computers, cars and lighter airplanes and satellites. It not only promises to revolutionise semiconductor, sensor, solar cells, transparent touch screens and display technology, but could also lead to breakthroughs in fundamental quantum physics research.

Graphene

Dr Novoselov, 36, first worked with Professor Geim, 51, as a PhD-student in the Netherlands. He subsequently followed Geim to the United Kingdom. Both of them originally studied and began their careers as physicists in Russia.

The two Russian-born scientists used Scotch tape to isolate graphene, a form of carbon only one atom thick but more than 100 times stronger than steel, and showed it has exceptional properties, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

“It has all the potential to change your life in the same way that plastics did,” Geim told The Associated Press yesterday. “It is really exciting.”

Geim, 51, is a Dutch national while Novoselov, 36, holds both British and Russian citizenship. Both were born in Russia and started their careers in physics there. They first worked together in the Netherlands before moving to Britain, where they reported isolating graphene in 2004.

Geim said he didn’t expect to win the prize this year either and had forgotten that it was Nobel time when the prize committee called him from Stockholm.

Paolo Radaelli, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, marveled at the simple methods the winners used.

“In this age of complexity, with machines like the super collider, they managed to get the Nobel using Scotch tape,” Radaelli said.

Geim last year won the prestigious Korber European Science Award for the discovery, the University of Manchester said. He also won the “Ig nobel” prize in 2000 for making a frog levitate in a magnetic field. That award is handed out by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine for silly sounding scientific discoveries that often have surprisingly practical applications.

 

Highlighting the playfulness of the two scientists, the Nobel citation said they created a "super sticky tape" seven years ago, inspired by a gecko's ability to stick to even the smoothest surface.

Graphene consists of carbon atoms held together in a flat lattice like chicken wire. Drawing a pencil across a sheet of paper produces thin sheets of graphite, but Geim and Novoselov managed to find a way to reliably separate these sheets into wafers only a single atom thick. There are around three million sheets of graphene in a millimetre-thick layer of graphite.

"Playfulness is one of their hallmarks. With the building blocks they had at their disposal they attempted to create something new, sometimes even by just allowing their brains to meander aimlessly," the Nobel committee said in its press release.

Geim said it is impossible to describe the range of possible uses for the material.

“I hope that graphene and other two-dimensional crystals will change everyday life as plastics did for humanity.”

Geim and Novoselov formally received the 10m Swedish-kronor (£1m) prize in an announcement yesterday by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Novoselov is the youngest Nobel laureate since 1973. The youngest Nobel laureate to date is Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the physics award with his father William Bragg in 1915.

Nobel Prize For Physics

The chemistry prize will be announced today, followed by literature on tomorrow, the peace prize on Friday and economics on Monday Oct. 11.

The prestigious awards were created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first given out in 1901. The prizes are always handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

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