Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 2010 Nobel prizes: Physics--Graphene Researchers Geim and Novoselov Win

Unlike the Peace Prize, you have to actually do something to win this one.
Materials science, yeah baby!
From Scientific American:
Sheets of one-dimensional carbon have been on the scene for just six years but have already drawn a wealth of research interest

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to two research pioneers working on graphene, a material that could have myriad high-tech applications, which they first produced by decidedly low-tech means. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both of the University of Manchester in England, shared the prize for their work producing and characterizing the material, which is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon resembling a nanoscale chicken wire. The new physics laureates were announced October 5 at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.

Novoselov was a postdoctoral fellow working in Geim's lab in 2004 when the researchers discovered that they could make atomically thin slabs of carbon by repeatedly cleaving graphite—essentially pencil lead—with adhesive tape. Their 2004 Science paper describing the material and its the electrical properties has already been cited more than 3,000 times, according to Thomson Web of Science.

"I didn't expect the Nobel Prize this year," said Geim, 51, when the Nobel committee reached him at home by telephone. Geim said that winning the Nobel would not change his outlook, not even for a day—he said he was planning to head into work and finish some papers. "I'll just try to muddle on as before," Geim said. He will, however, muddle on with a bit more cash than before; the prize comes with an award of 10 million Swedish kronor, equal to about $1.5 million U.S. dollars.

The Nobel committee said that Novoselov, 36, is the youngest laureate in physics since 1973, when Brian D. Josephson, then 33, shared in the prize for his work on current flows between two superconductors separated by an insulator—a phenomenon now known as the Josephson effect.

Graphene is transparent, flexible and strong, and it conducts electricity, making it an attractive material for a number of electronics applications. Tantalizingly, electrons move through its two-dimensional structure much more easily than through ordinary conductors, zooming through as if massless. Graphene has already been used to make high-speed transistors, and flexible, durable conductive touchscreens are but one large-scale application that could be in the offing if an effective means of mass production can be developed....MORE

From Reuters' Factbox:
* Graphene is one atom thick, which makes it the thinnest material ever discovered. It is a sheet of bonded carbon atoms densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice.
* At an atomic scale, it looks a bit like chicken wire made of carbon atoms and their bonds. It is almost completely transparent and yet also extremely dense.
* Graphene is highly conductive, conducting both heat and electricity better than any other material, including copper, and it is also stronger than diamond.
* In 2004, Geim and Novoselov found a way to isolate individual graphene planes from graphite -- a material used in many things including ordinary pencils -- by using adhesive tape.
* The discovery of graphene completely changed materials science and condensed-matter physics and offered physicists a way to study two-dimensional materials with unique properties.
* Possible applications include the creation of graphene transistors that could become much faster than today's silicon ones and give rise to more efficient computers.