The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics today to University of Manchester professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their work isolating graphene from graphite and identifying its behavior. Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon, is the thinnest, strongest material ever discovered. It conducts heat and electricity, and despite being one atom thick, is so dense even helium cannot pass through it. As the Swedish Academy of Sciences said in the Nobel Prize announcement: “Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again.”
See our gallery of graphene’s greatest hits.
Surprisingly, the isolation was the easy part – they peeled the graphene off of a graphite crystal using Scotch tape. However, their work from that moment on has already had a huge effect on materials science.
Here at PopSci, we’ve been tracking graphene’s developments closely (and not just so we can say “we knew it when”). As it proves itself useful in everything from bandages to faster-than-ever transistors, we can’t help but wonder if its talents will ever stop emerging. We’ve compiled a gallery of graphene’s greatest hits so far so you can revisit its humble beginnings before the Nobel Prize goes to its head.
IBM’s Graphene Transistors May Take The Silicon Out Of The Valley
Made of carbon one atom thick, IBM’s 100-gigahertz transistors are 10 times faster than their silicon brethren. Electrons travel through graphene much faster, which makes it a likely candidate to one day replace silicon in computer processors. Read the full story: IBM Demonstrates 100GHz Graphene-Based Transistors.
Graphene-Enhanced Batteries That Charge In Minutes
Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in conjunction with a private firm, are developing a battery that provides both high capacity and quick-charging ability. The secret is, of course, graphene – when added to a lithium-ion battery, cycling stability and power improve, resulting in your ability to charge your cell phone in mere minutes. Read the full story: In Stores Soon: Graphene-Enhanced Li-ion Batteries That Charge In Minutes.
Graphene’s Antibacterial Properties Could Make Thinner, Better Bandages
Chinese researchers have discovered that bacterial cells will not grow on graphene paper, but human cells suffer no harm from it. This paper could be used for bandages, to package food products or even woven into textiles for that antibacterial t-shirt you’ve always wanted. Read the full story: Antibacterial Graphene ‘Paper’ Could Lead to Better Bandages.
Graphene Nanobubbles Create Strongest Pseudo-Magnetic Fields Ever Seen
By putting strain on a graphene sheet and forming “nanobubbles,” scientists were able to observe electrons behaving as though they were subject to a magnetic force of 300 tesla. During all previous experiments magnets blew themselves apart at any measurement higher than 85 tesla, so this finding could shed new light on properties of electromagnetism as well as the increasingly wondrous properties of graphene. Read the full story: Strained Graphene Creates Pseudo-Magnetic Fields Stronger Than Any Before Seen.
Slice Of Graphene Is Fastest-Ever Spinning Object
A small slice of graphene was witnessed spinning at 60 million rpm, faster than any previously measured macroscopic object, by researchers at the University of Maryland at College Park. The wildest part is: the strength of the material suggests that this may only be a thousandth of graphene’s potential speed. Read the full story: Spinning Slice of Graphene Is Fastest Spinning Object Ever, At 60 Million RPM.
Graphene-Based Lighting Is Inexpensive, Environmentally Friendly
Light-emitting electrochemical cells (LECs) made of graphene could replace indium metal-based organic light diodes (OLEDs) as the leader in thin, flexible lighting technology. Replacing the conventional metal electrodes with graphene in lighting fixtures makes them more inexpensive and easier to recycle. Read the full story: Wonder Material Graphene Becomes Lighting for Future Devices and Homes.