In the mid-20th Century research began on the use of Carbon Fibres and their use in manufacture for automobiles and aeroplanes as well as other items needing high strength along with light weight. It has also been found that a carbon product known as Graphene, capable of transferring electrical pulses without the losses known due to the resistance of copper cables was right for the job!
History of Graphene
As far back as 1947 theoretical work on graphite, which is the ‘lead’ in a pencil, was carried out by Phillip Wallace from the University of Manchester. It wasn’t until 1984 that Gordon Walter Semenoff, David P DeVincenzo and Eugene J Mele were able to point out that theoretically electric current could be carried by effectively massless charge carriers in Graphene.
In 1987 S Mouros and his co-workers were able to use the name graphene to describe the graphite layers that had various compounds inserted between them that formed the Graphite Intercallation Compounds, known as GIC’s.
The work on carbon nanotubes, which are effectively rolled up graphene sheets, also uses this term. Since the 1970’s there have been attempts to grow graphene on single crystal surfaces, but this has been unsuccessful due to strong interactions with the crystal surface.
The features and properties of Graphene
Graphene is the first material that is two dimensional and is a single layer of graphite. Graphene, harder than diamond and the thinnest and lightest object ever obtained. It is also 300 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity better than any other product. It can be used in so many different industries viz. aerospace, electronics, communication, auto, and many others.
See the following creative clip following which highlights some of the key features and properties of Graphene.
The Graphene Discoveries
A researcher at Manchester University, Andre Geim, in 2002 asked a new PHD student, Kostya Novoselov, to see how thin he could make a piece of graphite by polishing it down. This did not provide the desired result and it took a back spot due to other experimental work and was only undertaken with other off-beat experiments on the Friday evening workshops held by Andre Geim.
One of the friends and colleagues that the results were discussed with, Oleg Shklyarevskii from Kharkov, Ukraine, suggested that the material he threw away on tape that he used to peel graphite and expose a clean surface for the experiments that he was studying, he believed to be thinner than that produced by Kostya.
With this information, Kostya began to see how thin he could get the flakes on the Scotch Tape by repeating the experiment and in 2003 Andre and Kostya succeeded in isolating the graphene flakes. They published their findings in 2004 and a huge number of researchers began work on the unusual electronic properties of graphene.
In 2005, Philip Kim’s group at Colombia University reported around the same time as Andre and Kostya, the anomalous quantum Hall effect in graphene.
This is effect of the massless nature of the charge carriers first predicted back in 1984. Andre and Kostya went on to show, what had not been seen in any other material, that graphene exhibited the all effect at room temperature and that it has extremely high carrier mobility.
This will be extremely useful for fast electronic devices and can even be used to detect single molecule adsorption/desorption events. This would therefore be important and useful for chemical sensors.
See following movie explaining a little more about the history of discovering this material and its applications.
In 2010 both Andre and Kostya were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for all the work done in unveiling the properties of Graphene and other two dimensional crystal materials. They are continuing develop and research further uses for this outstanding and fascinating product.
The implications for this stunning material are sure to bring a significant positive impact to our lives.