In 2010 Geim and Novoselov received the Nobel Prize for Physics for experiments performed with this exceptional material
The Russian-born scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were working at Manchester University (United Kingdom) when they received the news that they had won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research on graphene. Six years earlier, in 2004, they had discovered the material together.
Andre Geim was born in 1958, he studied at an English-speaking secondary school and then at Moscow’s Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and the Russian Science Academy, specialising in metal physics. Konstantin Novoselov was born in 1974 and also studied at MIPT. When he completed his degree, he decided to study for his doctorate with Geim, to which end he moved to Holland, where his tutor was living. Later, when Geim moved to Manchester, his disciple decided to follow him once again in order to continue their work together.
Andre Geim now has Dutch citizenship while Novoselov has dual Russian and British nationality.
Once the working week had finished, Geim and Novoselov would spend a few hours each Friday experimenting with new ideas in the laboratory. During one of these sessions they obtained a two-dimensional form of graphite which has resulted in the finest material with the thickness of a single atom. At the same time it is flexible, hard, transparent, extraordinarily light and the best electrical conductor. They had discovered graphene.
On this blog we have previously published two articles on the peculiarities and applications of graphene as well as describing some groups working on graphene which have since arisen around the world:
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Until very recentlyone of the challengesfaced by the researchers was to simplify the complicated process of obtaining graphene from graphite and achieving the purity required for each of its applications.
However, last week a group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California in Berkeley announced that they have developed a simple method which will remove this obstacle and atlow cost.
In its pure state graphene lacks some of the characteristics which are essential for electronic devices, among other applications. Oxygen atoms must be added to the material in order to modify it and give it the properties required in each case. Previous methods used for this presented a problem: the atoms were distributed unpredictably on the surface of the graphene. This required heat treatment at 700 to 900 degrees Celsius or the use of aggressive chemical products which were harmful to the environment.
The new method, published in Nature, exposes the material to temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Celsius without having to subject it to chemical treatments. It can be employed on a large scale, which facilitates the commercial applications tremendously. In addition, the process modifies the distribution of the oxygen atoms by grouping them and at the same time leaving areas of pure graphene among these groups, something which is fundamental for its applications in electronics. Morevoer, the researchers have observed that this treatment also significantly increases graphene’s capacity to absorb visible light, an improvement which makes it ideal for solar panels.
The discovery of graphene occurred under unusual circumstances: Geim and Novoselov did not use sophisticated equipment or an extraordinarily complex procedure. They simply used a highly adhesive tape with which they extracted laminas of graphite (the material from pencil lead mines) and a silicon support. The key was that they knew what they were discovering and the multiple applications it could have.
When they made the discovery, they wrote an article about it which was rejected by Nature magazine.
Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov receiving the Nobel Prize.