Nobel physics prize for ultra-thin carbon discovery

Tuesday 05 October 2010 15:00

Two British-based scientists have won the Nobel Prize for Physics for creating graphine, the world's thinnest material.

Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov, from the University of Manchester, made the breakthrough in 2004.

Graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice, has been hailed as a "wonder material". It has potential applications in the development of touch-sensitive screens, solar cells, light panels, gas sensors and flexible electronics.

One of graphene's key properties is its strength - it is around 200 times stronger than structural steel.

Because of its light weight and strength, it is ideally suited for use in satellites and on aircraft.

Prof Novoselov, 36, first worked with Prof Geim, 51, as a PhD student in Holland and later followed him to the UK.

Both men originally studied and began their careers as physicists in Russia.

Together they pioneered techniques for generating single graphene layers and demonstrated the material's unique properties with laboratory experiments.

Nancy Rothwell, president and vice chancellor of the University of Manchester, 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 to society."

Emeritus Professor Marshall Stoneham, president of the Institute of Physics, said: "Diamonds may be a girl's best friend but graphene gives an unexpected and a wholly new way to put the electron in carbon country, bringing a whole new range of applications and showing again the strength of the British science base."

Yesterday British IVF pioneer Professor Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Professor David Delpy, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), said: "This work represents an enormously important scientific development. An exciting new material that has a huge range of applications and will no doubt bring significant benefits to the UK economy.

"EPSRC has been supporting research by Professor Geim and his group for nearly 10 years and our latest grant has enabled the UK to retain the key academic and research staff behind this discovery, who might otherwise have been lost to foreign institutions."

In October 2009, the EPSRC awarded Prof Geim a grant of more than £5 million to investigate the potential of graphene.

Graphene is both the world's thinnest material and the strongest material yet measured.

It is a phenomenal conductor of electricity. Electrons travel further in graphene than in any other material.

Graphene-based integrated circuits could lead to smaller and more sophisticated computers and mobile phones.

Prof Geim said: "This is a fantastic honour. People have been talking about graphene as a possible prize winner for a number of years so for the community in graphene research it hardly comes as a surprise.

"However, I personally did not expect to get this prize. I slept soundly last night because I never expected to win it.

"Having won the Nobel Prize, some people sit back and stop doing anything, whereas others work so hard that they go mad in a few years. But I will be going into the office as usual and continuing to work hard and paddle through life as usual.

"I have lots of research papers to work on at the moment which all need writing up so I will be carrying on as normal."

Prof Novoselov, known as Kostya, said: "I was really shocked when I heard the news and my first thought was to go to the lab and tell the team.

"I didn't know until this morning when I had a call from Stockholm.

"We have had a fantastic seven years working together on this new material graphene. The university is well suited to this style of research, we have excellent facilities."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in