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the thinnest material known, with a range of attractive properties North West,

Black-and-white image showing highly magnified slivers of material.
Scanning electron micrograph of a fallen ‘mesa’ of graphite, shown as a 10 nanometre carbon flake. This illustrates how graphene molecules were ‘extracted’ from bulk graphite. Courtesy of University of Manchester.

Drawing a line with a pencil produces many stacked sheets of graphene. Andre Geim (born 1958) and Konstantin Novoselov (born 1974) of University of Manchester used sticky tape to separate out these sheets, each just one carbon atom thick. This makes it the first two-dimensional crystal ever discovered. 

The properties of this new form of carbon proved to be even more useful than expected. Harder than diamond and stronger than steel, graphene conducts heat and electricity better than copper. It is also light and flexible, allowing it to be shaped into almost any shape required. 

The discovery sparked global interest and students from all over the world came to Manchester to learn how to make the material. Graphene has already been shown to have potential in the aerospace, automobile, electronics, and communications industries. Geim and Novoselov were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for this work and are continuing to unveil new and exciting properties of graphene and other related two-dimensional crystal materials. 

Science Museum

North West
University of Manchester
Key Individuals
Andre Geim, Konstantin Novoselov,