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TECHNOLOGY

Move over adamantium:


The rise of graphene
A newly found form of carbon may change
the study of nanostructures and your iPod.

there, but had no way of


studying it.
The reason it was
impossible to study is that
grapheme is small, tiny
even. Graphene is a single
layer of carbon atoms
arranged like chicken
wire or a honeycomb in
which each cell has six
sides. Being so thin and
flat is one of the reasons
graphene is so unique.
So thin is graphene, that
when awarding the Nobel
Prize, the academy called
it "two-dimensional."
In an article for Nature
written by Geim and
is real. The 2010 Nobel traits. Carbon has more Novoselov themselves,
William Noell Prize in Physics was allotropes than any other they address just how
recently awarded to two element, including two many layers of such a
Wolverine's skeleton is thin sheet it would take to
Russian-born British sci- with which most people
covered in adamantium. be considered 3D. Their
entists, Andre Geim and are familiar: diamonds
Captain America's shield experiments showed that
Konstantin Novoselov, and graphite. Diamonds
is made of vibranium. graphene can be consid-
for their work in demon- and graphite are both
Very soon, super heroes ered three-dimensional at
strating the properties and made of the exact same
will be using another 10 layers. Any structure
potential of this carbon element, only structured
substance when creating over 10 layers would
allotrope. differently. One gives
indestructible tools and have to be considered
An allotrope is sparkle, the other dull
suits of armor. They'll graphite.
a pure, but structurally gray. Graphene is an
be using graphene. What In order to iso-
unique form of an ele- allotrope that has only
makes graphene bet- late graphene for study,
ment that both retains recently been discovered.
ter than adamantium or scientists had been using
that element's essential Scientists recently pre-
vibranium? Graphene all of the most high tech
properties and has unique dicted that it would be
24 l NewScientist l 16 October 2010
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200 times stronger than be able to be used in


structural steel,” and the fabrication of much
“would take an elephant, smaller transistors than
balanced on a pencil, to silicon. Even better, the
break through a sheet of conductivity as measured
graphene the thickness by a report published in
of Saran™ Wrap.” The International Journal
The study of Carbon, shows graphene
graphene is not just to have "the largest ever
important because of reported value for a semi-
the way it was isolated conductor or a semimet-
using what is called the al," making it a promising
exfoliation method, but actor in the post-silicon
because graphene has era." These electronic
Doctors Andre Geim (left) and Konstantin Novoselov so many potential uses. wonders may be excit-
Perez and Ribeiro cite ing, but for them you will
equipment they knew and were able to isolate
"radiofrequency devices, have to wait. Geim and
all of the most advanced graphene. Doctors N M R
non-volatile memories, Novoselov don't believe
practices they knew. Perez and Ricardo Ri-
transparent electrodes that graphene research
Finally, as with other beiro, in the New Journal
in solar cells and liq- will be ready or that mass
great advances in science, of Physics, call the pro-
uid crystal displays" production of it will be
graphene was found by cess of original isolation
as products for which practical or cost-efficient
accident. In order to break of graphene "simultane-
graphene is already being enough for those advanc-
the graphite down into ously surprising
researched. Liquid crys- es for another 20 years.
a small enough slice so and ingeniously simple
tal displays are a good A little over 70
as to be called graphene, on the surface."
example of how graphene years ago, according to
Geim and Novoselov What they found
could change many of Geim and Novosalev,
had been making quite a was a highly conductive,
the products you already researchers Landau and
mess. It was impossible trans-
to cut graphite that thinly. parent The two had one of those “serendipitous Peierls argued
Geim and Novoselov allotrope
were using Scotch® tape of carbon
eureka moments” of science. that
to clean the graphite from that just - Miles O’Brien "strictly
2D crys-
which they were trying to happens
own. Imagine dropping tals were thermodynami-
extract graphene. Then, to be the strongest (mea-
your flat-screen television cally unstable and could
as Miles O’Brien, science sured) material on earth.
or your mp3 player and not exist." Although
journalist, describes it, Just how strong is “stron-
not having to worry about Landau and Peirels were
the two had one of those gest?” Research scientists
the screen breaking. This incorrect, the practical
“serendipitous eureka at Columbia University’s
is the potential graphene. uses of graphene are still
moments” of science. Fu Foundation School of
As electronics years away. That such
They decided to take a Engineering and Applied
continue to shrink in a material does exist,
look at the tape they had Science decided to mea-
size, silicon transistors however, opens the door
thrown away. sure just that. Using a
have been finding limita- for a new generation of
By using adhesive very small piece of an al-
tions on just how small electronics and building
tape to peel off layer by ready small material, they
they can be. Because of materials about which
miniscule later of graph- were able to determine
the simplistic structure many articles will fill this
ite, Geim and Novoselov that graphene is “some
of graphene, it should magazine.

25 l NewScientist l 16 October 2010