Wonder carbon pioneers win Nobel Physics Prize

Wonder carbon pioneers win Nobel Physics Prize

Wonder carbon pioneers win Nobel Physics Prize

Two Russian-born scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, won the 2010 Nobel Physics Prize Tuesday for pioneering work on graphene, touted as the wonder material of the 21st century.

Both laureates began their careers as physicists in Russia but now work at the University of Manchester in Britain. Geim holds Dutch nationality and Novoselov is both a British and Russian national.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences hailed graphene — “the perfect atomic lattice” — for its glittering potential in computers, home gadgets and transport.

It lauded Geim, 51, and Novoselov, 36, for having “shown that carbon in such a flat form has exceptional properties that originate from the remarkable world of quantum physics.”

The prize honors a breakthrough that paved the way to graphene, a form of carbon touted as the next-generation super-material.

Just one atom thick, it is the world’s thinnest and strongest nano-material, almost transparent and able to conduct electricity and heat.

As a result, graphene is described as the candidate material to replace silicon semi-conductors.

Graphene transistors would in theory be able to run at faster speeds and cope with higher temperatures than today’s classic computer chips.

That would resolve a fast-growing problem facing chip engineers who want to boost power and shrink semiconductor size but without raising temperatures, the bugbear of computing.

Its transparency means it could potentially be used in touch screens and even solar cells, and when mixed with plastics would provide light but super-strong composite materials for next-generation satellites, planes and cars.

The Nobel jury acknowledged that most of graphene’s practical applications “exist only in our fantasies, but many are already being tested.”

The committee added the laureates believed research should be fun.

For instance, Geim managed in 1997 to make a frog levitate in a magnetic field, the jury said, calling it “an ingenious way of illustrating the principles of physics.”

On Tuesday, Geim told the committee he was looking at emails and looking at archives when he got the call.

“I slept well, I didn’t expect the Nobel Prize this year,” he said, adding he was going straight back to work.

“In my opinion there are several categories of Nobel Prize winners, one which after getting the Nobel Prize stop doing anything for the rest of their life. It is a big disservice for the community,” he said.

The other category of people, which he said he belonged to, were “people who think people think they won the Nobel Prize by accident so they start working even harder than before.”

Last year, Charles Kao, Willard Boyle and George Smith won the physics prize for work on fibre optics and light sensing that helped unleash the Information Technology revolution

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