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Nobel Prize in Physics For Discovery of Graphene 139

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the all-sorts-of-grats dept.
bugsbunnyak writes "The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded for the discovery of graphene to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. Graphene is a novel one-atom-thick lattice state of carbon which has demonstrated unique quantum mechanical properties. These properties derive in part from the 2-dimensional nature of the material: quantum interactions are constrained to the effectively planar dimension of the lattice. Graphene holds promise for physical applications including touch screens, light cells, and potentially solar panels. Geim becomes the first scientist to achieve a Nobel prize despite earlier winning the highly-coveted Ig Nobel in 2000 for his studies of diamagnetic levitation — also known as The Flying Frog." Slashdot originally mentioned the frog almost exactly 10 years ago.
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Nobel Prize in Physics For Discovery of Graphene

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  • by koreaman (835838)

    I actually remember the frog story... I wonder how many digits my UID would be had I registered back then.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by snowraver1 (1052510)
      I remember that story too. I remember feeling sorry for the frog. I imagine that it would feel like you were being electrocuted. That high of a magenetic field would likely induce funky currents in your nerves.
      • Re:Heh (Score:5, Informative)

        by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:32AM (#33795640)

        Currents are only induced by time-changing magnetic fields, not by a constant gradient. The field strength they used for the frog was 16 T, I think. That's on the order of field strength they use for MRI. When MRIs use rapidly-changing fields, there are noticeable, but not particularly painful, neural effects. I've personally been near 5+ T static fields, and it's entirely uninteresting.

        • by david.given (6740)
          Would the magnetic field affect the movement of charged particles through the body, such as the ions of dissolved salts in the bloodstream? Or does blood move sufficiently slowly that this isn't an issue? What about synapse junctions?
          • by blueg3 (192743)

            Well, the first question is easy: as far as I know, the magnetic field technically would affect the movement of charged particles (ions show up everywhere in cell biology and like to move from one place to another).

            I don't know offhand how big the effect is. It'd scale linearly with magnetic field. There are no apparent ill effects from fields of a few Tesla, so a 16 T field would be no different.

        • Currents are only induced by time-changing magnetic fields, not by a constant gradient. The field strength they used for the frog was 16 T, I think. That's on the order of field strength they use for MRI. When MRIs use rapidly-changing fields, there are noticeable, but not particularly painful, neural effects. I've personally been near 5+ T static fields, and it's entirely uninteresting.

          MRIs typically operate in the 0.5-3.0T range - not 16T

          • by blueg3 (192743)

            I didn't say they did. But the 16 T field is static. The MRI fields, which go at least up to 3 T, are rapidly time-changing. Encountering magnetic fields of 5+ T is common in scientific research.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by x2A (858210)

        Magnetic fields don't induce a current, a changing field (or moving through a field) does... if the magnetic field is a fixed one (I assume so but could easily be wrong) the minor movements of it floating around I'd imagine is unlikely to do much in a way that would trigger currents through nerves. Electric currents tend not to discriminate much as far as nerve types go, so if it was doing something, it would be fairly visible as it would play havock with froggies muscles. For an example of what I mean, jum [youtube.com]

        • by vlm (69642)

          Magnetic fields don't induce a current, a changing field (or moving through a field) does... if the magnetic field is a fixed one (I assume so but could easily be wrong) the minor movements of it floating around I'd imagine is unlikely to do much in a way that would trigger currents through nerves.

          Frogger's center of gravity might/must remain motionless to float statically, but unless frogger is dead, its gonna wiggle in the field.

          Sort of like when I swim, my center of gravity remains at a vaguely constant distance from the waters surface, but my extremities are a wrigglin. Same situation with laying on top of a waterbed, or so I'm told.

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        I remember that story too. I remember feeling sorry for the frog. I imagine that it would feel like you were being electrocuted. That high of a magenetic field would likely induce funky currents in your nerves.

        The magnetic fields weren't so high and, as the process lifted the frog by its water, the creature probably just felt weightless as if floating in dry water.

    • by Abstrackt (609015)
      If memory serves (and the ten year old summary conveniently linked by CmdrTaco), your UID would still be six digits.
    • by Dynedain (141758)

      Considering first post [slashdot.org] on that story was from a 6-digit UID, you'd still have 6 digits in your UID.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      I wonder how many digits my UID would be had I registered back then.

      Low six figures. Easy to double-check by looking at posts at the link [slashdot.org].

      BTW, the froggy thing should have won a regular Nobel, IMO, and an IgNobel.

      There's no reason good science can't also be wacky.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I clicked the link and saw some six digit UIDs. Slashdot was three years old then.

    • by wurp (51446)

      Given that the frist post on that story was by a user with a 6 digit UID, I'm guessing you would still have a 6 digit UID had you registered then.

  • Fun facts (Score:5, Informative)

    by zrbyte (1666979) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:25AM (#33795560)
    At the University of Maryland they have levitated [newscientist.com] graphene flakes. Although this was not diamagnetic levitation. The story was discussed in an earlier /. post. [slashdot.org] HOPG [wikipedia.org] (Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite), a form of highly crystalline graphite, from which graphene is obtained in the lab, can also be diamagnetically levitated [wikipedia.org] :)
  • As far as Nobel prizes in Physics go, this one is for a very recent result. The experimental apparatus itself was very simple (some graphite and scotch tape!), but the result is very interesting.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zrbyte (1666979) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:45AM (#33795812)
      I happen to work in this field and I think the prize is well deserved. Ever since the 2004 - 2005 papers [doi.org] of these guys the number of peer reviewed, graphene related publications has grown exponentially every year. So they have had (and still have) a major impact on physics, not counting all the possible applications of this material.

      Although graphene was observed in various experiments in the 70s [wikipedia.org], these guys have realized its true potential. Furthermore, the discovery came in just the right moment in (scientific) history, where we have the sophisticated tools to study this material. No use inventing the spaceship in the middle ages (if you pardon the crude analogy).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by l2718 (514756)
        Oh -- I definitely agree that the prise is well deserved. It's just notable that a well-deserved prize is given 6 years after publication and not 36 years after publication. It's also notable that you don't always need very expensive equipment to do ground-breaking work in condensed matter physics -- it's still possible to do top-notch research with everyday tools.
        • by zrbyte (1666979)
          You're absolutely right. People probably create some trace amounts of graphene every time they draw with a pencil :)
  • by MarkRose (820682) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:30AM (#33795628) Homepage

    I don't get it. How could they get the Nobel prize for this? Graphene is made out of carbon, and last I checked, carbon isn't one of the Nobel elements.

  • Hmmm, wasn't Montgolfier the first?

  • Hmmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @12:14PM (#33796212) Homepage Journal

    If those awarding the Ig Nobels are themselves Nobel Prize Winners, if he wins another can he present the prize to himself? (Answers c/o Schrodinger's cat, P.O. Box 666.)

    Seriously, graphene was a fascinating discovery - doubly so given the simplicity of its discovery. Anyone could have used pencil lead and sellotape, the way these guys did, to create graphene - and may well have done. The only real difference is these guys wondered what they had and took a look. (There have been many discoveries over time like that. I'm beginning to realize just how much genius depends on asking questions others could have - perhaps should have - asked but didn't.)

    Problems with the best-known alternative to silicon (gallium arsenide) include that it's expensive, extremely toxic to make, result in much smaller wafers and have a much lower yield if you even get that far. It's also not very good at CMOS-style logic. However, silicon is already pushing the limits of what it can do so if you want faster computers, you have to have a good alternative lined up. Graphene may be a good option here, once it matures. Carbon is plentiful, there's no reason to believe the production of graphene will turn out to be hazardous, graphene transistors can be made to be faster than silicon ones and the IBM successfully used silicon fab tech to made it. What is not known is how to make anything complex or how it'll perform under such conditions.

    One area that GaAs is major is the aerospace industry. GaAs is much more radiation-resistant than silicon, which means you don't have to do mind-boggling contortions in the circuitry or add in lead shielding (both techniques are used, although the shielding seems to only be used by a handful of companies, the rest opt for circuits from hell). I can find no information on how radiation-resistant graphene would be, but at a glance I would imagine it to be at least as good as silicon, maybe slightly better. It may displace silicon in the aerospace markets, then, but probably not GaAs unless it's a lot better than I'm thinking.

    Since graphene has other properties that may be valuable (unusual strength for something one atom thick, interesting optical properties, weird magnetic properties, etc), it would not surprise me if it ends up being used in other industries for things that have no bearing on its semiconductor nature. It might be fun to speculate who can really exploit graphene in any practical way first.

    • by sgtrock (191182)

      Seriously, graphene was a fascinating discovery - doubly so given the simplicity of its discovery. Anyone could have used pencil lead and sellotape, the way these guys did, to create graphene - and may well have done. The only real difference is these guys wondered what they had and took a look. (There have been many discoveries over time like that. I'm beginning to realize just how much genius depends on asking questions others could have - perhaps should have - asked but didn't.)

      'The most exciting phrase

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The only real difference is these guys wondered what they had and took a look. (There have been many discoveries over time like that. I'm beginning to realize just how much genius depends on asking questions others could have - perhaps should have - asked but didn't.)

      I think it was Asimov (correct me if I'm wrong) who said "Scientific discoveries are rarely born with a 'Eureka', but instead usually with a 'that's funny'..."

  • Second author (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bazman (4849) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @12:39PM (#33796572) Journal

    Geim is now probably the only Nobel prize winner to have co-authored a paper with a hamster.

       

  • These properties derive in part from the 2-dimensional nature of the material

    Now, granted, I'm not a physicist, but since when have real-world objects been able to be two-dimensional? Even if you draw a line on a piece of paper, the graphite or ink that compose the line will have three dimensions. Is there any such thing in the physical universe as a two-dimensional object?

    • by slew (2918) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @01:23PM (#33797272)

      Now, granted, I'm not a physicist, but since when have real-world objects been able to be two-dimensional?

      Although real-world objects cannot actually span only two dimensions (if you ignore possible theories about strings), the interaction of certain particles can be constrained to 2 spatial degrees of freedom (well plus the time dimension, but ignoring that for now). Two degrees of freedom can be basically lay-man-transliterated as 2-dimensional nature since many people don't really understand 2 degrees of freedom, but they can relate to 2 dimensions (like a sheet of paper to use your analogy).

      In this case, the electrons that "move" in the (2d grid-like) lattice of carbon atoms are effectively constrained to 2 spatial degrees of freedom (can represent the position as x & y of the 2d grid of atoms) and will exhibit similar properties as being constrain to a 2 dimensional object even though the lattice of carbon atoms occupies 3 spatial dimensions since the electrons (of a certain energy) only have 2 actual degrees of freedom.

      FWIW Quantum physics is usually weird and non-intuitive when you chop down the number of degrees of freedom of an object, although it can be sometimes be understood by using an analogy about reducing the number of dimensions.

      • So the dimensions in this case refer to the dimensions the electrons can move, rather than the dimensions the graphene actually occupies? Okay, that makes sense.
    • by wurp (51446) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @01:42PM (#33797622) Homepage

      It is a macro-scale (more or less) object that exhibits quantum properties in two dimensions, because the atoms are bound to their neighbors in a flat sheet. When the distances are less than the wavelength of the particles you're studying, they act in some ways as if that direction doesn't exist - i.e. it is not a "degree of freedom" in the system, a typical physics definition of a dimension.

  • by vsage3 (718267) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @12:53PM (#33796792)
    Geim's original paper on the subject ( http://arxiv.org/ftp/cond-mat/papers/0410/0410550.pdf [arxiv.org] ) was a real fascination because it was so simple and yet enabled many people to do real research. The original paper uses scotch tape to peel off monolayers of different bulk materials, but only graphene showed anything interesting (in particular, the so-called "field-effect" which is the principle behind CMOS transistors. To be sure, the quality of graphene produced from this method is complete crap compared to more advanced methods used by groups today (chemical vapor deposition of various organic molecules, carbon gettering from metals, epitaxial growth by silicon sublimation from SiC), but an impressive amount of exotic physical phenomena (e.g., quantum hall effect) was seen in what was essentially crap.

    No doubt, Geim has probably indirectly gotten thousands of researchers perhaps a billion dollars in funding in less than a decade, but I don't think Geim's contribution was as much physics as it was successfully marketing his research (outsiders like to think of science as being purely meritocratic, but it scientists are still people, and people are susceptible to hype). In my opinion, there are many better physics researchers in the field than Geim himself, but none of them are nearly as good at communication and generating buzz.

    In any case, congratulations to him for winning it so soon.
  • I would like to know if 2D graphene sheets are flammable, and if they will start standard charcoal briquettes without having to also use lighter fluid.

  • by pwnies (1034518) <j@jjcm.org> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @04:01PM (#33799762) Homepage Journal
    It was discovered in 1947, they got the Nobel prize for testing the properties of it.
  • using exclusively Nobel (tm) branded dynamite products [wikipedia.org]?

    I'm sure that's a secret condition of the Nobel prizes somewhere.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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