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.”
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.