Pioneers of the world’s thinnest material recognised in the New Year Honours

IOM3
,
3 Jan 2012

Two physicists have been knighted for their work in developing graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon that is stronger than steel, for which they were awarded the physics Nobel Prize in 2010.

Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who are originally from Russia but published their graphene research while based at the University of Manchester, received their knighthoods as a part of the New Year Honours.

The properties of graphene make it an extremely interesting material, as it is only a single carbon atom thick it is the thinnest material in the world, but is also incredibly strong, around 100 times more so than steel. In addition it is an efficient conductor of electricity and the best known conductor of heat.

This unique combination of electronic and mechanical properties could lead to applications in solar cells, touch screens or as a replacement for silicon as the material used in transistors.

However, it was humble sticky tape that lead to the development of this super-thin material, with scientists initially using it to extract thinner and thinner layers from the ordinary graphite found in a pencil. The flakes consisted of many layers of graphene, but through repetition and a refined process, the revolutionary 2D honeycomb structure was achieved.

Further information

Materials World article: Graphene exists in the free state

Materials World article: Creating large graphene coatings

Materials World article: Fine tuning graphene nanoribbons

Geim and Novoselov’s 2004 research paper on graphene

How sticky tape led to a Nobel Prize