Two days ago Sochi-born Andre Geim and his fellow researcher Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene".
Graphene is a bright new star in the sky of materials science and physics of condensed matter. Web of Science database lists only about 1000 publications with this word in a title, most of them published after 2004, when the famous paper of Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim («Electric field effect in atomically thin carbon films» K.S. Novoselov, A.K. Geim, S.V. Morozov, D. Jiang, Y. Zhang, S.V. Dubonos, I.V. Grigorieva, A.A. Firsov; Science, 306, 666-669 (2004)) has come off the press. This paper is still one of the most cited papers in this research field, which in scientific world designates its value for the mankind and for further research.
What is so revolutionary about the work of two former Russian physicists? Geim and Novoselov were the first to isolate graphene, which has been successfully slipping from hands of many researchers all over the world. They went further and showed the world a graphene crystal in an ordinary optical microscope. Graphene can, in my opinion, replace, diamonds in rings and pendants, and not because they are both carbon. Graphene is very strong, transparent and perfectly conducts electricity and heat. Its properties allow addressing it as a "wonder material" with many possible technological applications from ultra-fast transistors to DNA sequencing; furthermore, it shows ideal optical properties for making transparent electrodes, used in LCDs. Even Andre Geim is unable to choose best application for this material, since there are so many of them.
Andre Geim, now a Dutch physicist, was born in 1958 in Sochi (at that time USSR, now Russian Federation), to a Jewish family with German roots. His parents were chief engineer Konstantin Geim and chief technologist Nina Bayer, both working in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic. World of science knows Andre for his work on graphene, the development of sticky tape, known as gecko tape, and his studies of diamagnetic levitation, which resulted in the famous flying frog experiment, later a Ig Nobel Prize-winning work.
Konstantin Novoselov, another Russian-born researcher, originating from Nizhniy Tagil, now works with Andre Geim in Manchester, United Kingdom. Both researchers have received their higher education in Russia, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. After challenging times for the Russian science came, researcher moved to the Netherlands, where defended a PhD dissertation under Geim’s supervision. Novoselov shares with Geim gecko tape and Nobel-Prize winning graphene work.
The news about the award was absolutely unexpected by Andre Geim, fast-as-light Swedish journalists, who called the scientists minutes after the announcement, report.
Graphene isolation was a funny accident. Researchers, who supervised a Chinese PhD student, gave him a large piece of graphite and told him to make it as thin as possible. The student sawed it till 50 microns, but all further attempts led to graphite dust. Konstantin Novoselov once paid attention to work of a researcher from a neighboring lab, who used well-known technique, called “scotch tape method”, which is simply sticking the tape to graphite and ripping it off, for getting thin graphite layers. Novoselov got a piece of scotch, used by that researcher, from a trash bin and – voila. Carbon material, stuck to the tape, showed all properties, predicted for graphene.