No one ever expected the humble pencil to kickstart a revolution. But, by peeling apart pencil graphite into atom-thick layers using regular adhesive tape, two Russian-born scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, earned a Nobel Prize in 2010. With it, they sparked the beginnings of a material that could change the world.
It is no exaggeration to say that graphene, the substance that the two scientists — along with others — discovered in 2004, is a miracle material. Now a Korean research lab may have made the leap from theoretical to practical with the development of a new way to synthesize it, potentially on a commercial scale.
The substance, “the perfect atomic lattice,” boasts a number of hugely attractive properties, meaning it has the potential to be used in myriad industries, and for a huge range of purposes. As well as being super-strong — 20 times stronger than diamond, 200 stronger than steel and six times lighter — it is also remarkably conductive, both electrically and thermally. If that wasn’t enough, it is also almost perfectly transparent, impermeable to gas, and its properties are, scientists say, easily alterable. Graphene is one form — an allotrope — of carbon, the basis of all life on earth. More familiar carbon allotropes include diamonds and graphite. What makes it unique is its thinness — at one atom thick it is as good as two-dimensional. Its flexibility means that it could potentially be used for flexible or wearable devices. . . .