Everything in our three-dimensional world has a width, length and height, or so we thought.
But scientists have now identified another class of — according to 2010 Nobel Prize winner Andre Geim — “wonder materials” that are stronger and stiffer than diamond, yet can be stretched like rubber.
They are one atom thick, he told New Scientist magazine (05 October 2010), “essentially two-dimensional planes of atoms shaved from conventional crystals, arranged in a honeycomb lattice. “
Geim, professor of physics at the University of Manchester, described graphene, which he and his colleagues first isolated in 2004.
“Graphene is stronger and stiffer than diamond, yet can be stretched like rubber. Its surface area is the largest known for its weight.
“It is impermeable to gases or liquids. “It conducts heat and electricity better than copper, and can be made into transistors which are faster than those made from silicon. There are high hopes for what we might accomplish with graphene.”
Geim’s achievements (along with his colleague Konstantin Novoselov – they both won the 2010 Nobel Price in Physics for their work) were also reported in the Russian online magazine www.russia-ic.com.
“Think of it as a sheet of chicken-wire that is just a single atom thick, but also lightweight, strong (more than 100 times stronger than steel), airtight, stretchable, transparent and an excellent conductor of both electricity and light. If graphene were in a Hollywood movie, scientists would complain that no such material could possibly exist in the real world.”
It noted that part of the fascination with graphene is its possible role as the successor to silicon in new generations of electronic devices.
“If you look around, everything around you has width, length and thickness,” Andre Geim told the magazine. “And essentially, six years ago, we stumbled on a new class of materials which has one of those dimensions missing. It’s always nice to find a new class of materials, but it turns out this is not just a material that is only one atom thick, but that its properties are very different from what we know about the normal materials in the world around us. Its full impact might not become apparent for years.”