How they won the Nobel Prize using school supplies.

I’ll start with the video. It’s a little bit… eh; the best parts are at 1:00, 3:35 and 4:48.

Graphene is a pretty amazing material. The term was coined in 1987, so it’s a pretty new material. It’s got a hexagonal tessellation going on, and is an aromatic structure. That means it’s got a simple, repeatable pattern, can theoretically be infinitely large–since you could just make the honeycomb bigger and bigger–and is much stronger than it would be by itself.

Rendering of a graphene lattice

This is what graphene looks like. Chicken wire.

But this graphene thing has a lot of interesting applications. Besides being very strong and flexible, which could make it a new material for lightweight and strong things like airplanes, cars and buildings, it’s extremely conductive and compact. That means it may replace copper or gold in our computer’s transistors, making them smaller and even more powerful. It would make a great medium for power and data storage. Because it’s almost 98% transparent and conductive, it would make a great surface for touch screens–strong, clear and can recognize your touch. It even has antibacterial properties and could wind up in Tupperware or something. Super-strong Tupperware. For the army. Or something.

My point is that it’s kind of a holy grail in terms of application. The downside is how incredibly hard it is to isolate. To form properly, it’s got to be only an atom thick (.142 nanometers) before you stack it on top of itself and make sheets of the stuff. Finding a cheap way to produce graphene is kind of a big deal.

Small tangent: My friend, who is very in to all things Russian, told me about these Nobel Prize winners as soon as he found out about it. They’re both Russian-born, but work together at the University of Manchester (Britain). Remember that nowadays we have things like the Large Hardon Collider, and half-mile high buildings. These guys won the Nobel Prize in Physics for isolating graphene.

image of Geim and Novoselov

Stare into their brilliant minds. Can you feel it.

So how did they isolate graphene? Scotch tape, pencil lead and acetone.

Scotch tape. Pencil lead. And acetone.

Those things are pretty cheap.

They’re cool guys, too. Novoselov is the youngest winner since 1973. And as far as I can tell, Geim is the only person in history to win both the Nobel Prize and the IgNobel Prize–basically a spoof award for really weird science.

Best explained with another video.

He made a frog float with a magnet.


2 thoughts on “How they won the Nobel Prize using school supplies.

  1. Pingback: Get Real - Link Dump 04-22-11

  2. Pingback: Link Dump 10-7 | Get Real

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