• Question: Why did it take so long to discover graphene, given that I can make it at home with sticky tape and a pencil? What cool uses of graphene are there?

    Asked by bolzanoweierstrass to James, Marcus, Martin, Rob, Suzanne on 20 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: James Boone

      James Boone answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      Graphene introduced a new paradigm in materials science. Not only does it have pretty incredible electronic properties, it’s technically a 2-Dimensional crystal, previously thought to have been impossible to exist. I think the sellotape idea was a kind of “why not give this a try” and it happened to work. The sticky tape prevents the Graphene from being suspended freely in air, making it stable to view under an electron microscope. I’ve been to conferences in which Andre Geim (the discoverer of single layer Graphene) has given talks, and he’s super clever!

      One cool property of Graphene (other than 1 square metre of single layer Graphene held at the edges could theoretically hold the weight of an average Cat!) is its ability to have ballistic transport of electrons, which means that as Graphene conducts electrons, the electrons don’t knock into anything, making it super low resistance.

    • Photo: Robert Thompson

      Robert Thompson answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      I think it took so long because it’s so amazingly simple. Oftern we overlook the simple option.

    • Photo: Marcus Gallagher-Jones

      Marcus Gallagher-Jones answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      I love it when the simple solutions are the right one. It’s amazing how many nobel prizes were born out of accidents.

    • Photo: Martin Zaltz Austwick

      Martin Zaltz Austwick answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Penecillin was supposedly discovered by accident, wasn’t it? I wonder how many lives that’s saved.