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Graphene’s Humble Creation and Promising Future

by Kathy Chambers on Mon, January 05, 2015

Alternate Text PlaceholderSometimes the ordinary things we use every day can lead to extraordinary discoveries.  This was truly the case when physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov used the humble adhesive tape to extract single layers of graphene from graphite. 

Although graphene had been theorized years before, it was thought to be impossible to isolate such thin crystalline materials in a laboratory.  Geim and Novoselov not only exfoliated their thin sheets of graphene, they transferred them to a silicon substrate, the standard working material in the semiconductor industry and did electrical characterization on the graphite layers.  Their discovery was published in 2004 and in 2010 they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for successfully producing, isolating, identifying and characterizing graphene.  Their adhesive tape, dispenser, chuck of graphite and a graphene transistor (shown above) were donated to the Nobel Museum in Stockholm. 

Graphene is a single layer of carbon packed in a hexagonal (honeycomb) lattice and the first in a new class of two-dimensional crystalline materials with remarkable mechanical and electrical properties.  Graphene is the strongest known substance, 200 times stronger than steel, so dense that the smallest gas atom helium cannot pass through it.  It is an unmatched thermal and electrical conductor, stable, stretchable, transparent and impermeable.

Graphene holds much promise.  Since the 2003 discovery, graphene research has increased substantially in many areas, including the development of solar cells, composite materials, lithium-ion batteries, biological and chemical sensors, transistors, inkjet printing of next generation electronics, telecommunications, novel coatings and lubricants.  Department of Energy researchers are using graphene aerogel for enhanced electrical energy storage that could be used to smooth out power fluctuations in the energy grid.  Scientists at DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have shown for the first time that graphene is a key player in superconductivity.  Researchers at Northwestern University have developed batteries made with graphene predicted to have a capacity and charge rate 10 times higher than the silicon and lithium ion batteries.  Researchers have also found that ballistic transport in graphene suggests a new type of electronic device that would capitalize on the ability of graphene instead of silicon to carry electrons..

The next time you are wrapping gifts, remember that simple adhesive tape helped make these scientific advances possible.

Read more about related graphene research information in OSTI’s Science Showcase - Graphene, DOE’s SciTech Connect  database, DOE PAGESBeta and in Dr. William Watson’s latest white paper In the OSTI Collections: Graphene.   

Related OSTI Products: In the OSTI Collections
Page last updated on 2017-03-21 13:03

About the Author

Kathy Chambers's picture
Kathy Chambers
Technical Writer, Information International Associates, Inc.