Graphene grabs physics Nobel

The news through  from Stockholm this evening will be 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.

Graphene layer
Graphene layer

UPDATE: Actually not that staggering as fellow Sciblogger Grant Jacobs pointed out to me – some universities have had or have large numbers of Nobel laureates on staff at any given time – Columbia University (58), the University of Cambridge (50), and the University of Chicago (43) according to this Wikipedia piece.

Some analysis on the Nobel win over at Researchblogging here and here.

Graphene boys

Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research on graphene. Here’s a bit more about the scientists, both Russian by birth and one aged just 36!

Wikipedia has a good entry on graphene.

My colleagues at the Science Media Centre in London are busy rounding up reaction from the scientific community – here are some of the responses so far…

Dr Mark Miodownik, Head of the Materials Research Group, King’s College London, said:

“The award of this Nobel Prize will bring a smile to the face of every scientist because it shows you can still get a Nobel Prize by mucking about in a lab. Professors Geim and Novoselov happened across graphine, a new material that has the potential to revolutionise electronics, by discovering they could pluck atomic layers of carbon from the lead of a pencil using nothing more sophisticated than sticky tape. It turns out that anyone who has ever held a pencil could have discovered this amazing new material, but it was Professors Geim and Novoselov who took the time to look carefully. Bravo! Another reason to recognise that Bristish Science is a special culture, admired throughout the world for its originality and genius, and needs to be nurtured not cut by the government if they want to foster future technology and wealth in the UK.”

Professor Ton Peijs, Professor of Materials at Queen Mary, University of London, said:
“Graphene is a one-atom-thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. It can be visualized as an atomic-scale chicken wire made of carbon atoms and their bonds.

“Applications are foreseen in areas of biomedical and gas sensors, transparent conducting materials for e.g. touch screens or flexible displays and as a reinforcement or conducting filler in composite materials. Similar to another important nanomaterial – carbon nanotubes – graphene is incredibly strong – around 200 times stronger than structural steel – but it may also form a stronger interaction when embedded in a polymer as the graphene sheet has considerably more contact area with the polymer material than the hollow carbon nanotubes.

“Graphene possesses a 2D platelet geometry compared to the 1D fibre geometry for nanotubes, which  may have some benefits in terms of improved mechanical properties such as toughness of plastics, while they may also be more effective in improving electrical, barrier and flame retardant properties of plastics.

“Congratulations to the Prize winners Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim, the 8th Dutchman to win the Nobel Prize for Physics. He was born in Russia has the Dutch Nationality and worked before moving to Manchester at the Radbout University of Nijmegen.”

Dr Mark Baxendale, Reader in Nanotechnology at Queen Mary, University of London, said:
“Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon atoms bound in a hexagonal network. The bonds between the carbon atoms are the strongest in nature and the free electrons are highly mobile; consequently graphene promises ultimate mechanical and electronic properties. Geim and Novoselov pioneered the techniques for isolation of single graphene layers and demonstrated the unique attributes of graphene with some outstanding experimental work.”


Two scientists who discovered graphene at The University of Manchester have today been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Professor Andre Geim and Dr Konstantin Novoselov have been awarded the highest accolade in the scientific world for their pioneering work with the world’s thinnest material.

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 not only promises to revolutionise semiconductor, sensor, and display technology, but could also lead to breakthroughs in fundamental quantum physics research.

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 award of the Nobel Prize means there are currently four Nobel Laureates at The University of Manchester.

University of Manchester President and Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell said:
’This is fantastic news. We are delighted that Andre and Konstantin’s work on graphene has been recognised at the very highest level by the 2010 Nobel Prize Committee.

’This is a wonderful example of a fundamental discovery based on scientific curiosity with major practical, social and economic benefits for society.’

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