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Nobel Worthy: Best Graphene Close-Ups

• Dave Mosher via
Sorry diamond lovers, but graphene is the most awesome form of carbon out there. Evidence: Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, the two scientists who isolated one-atom-thick sheets of the stuff in 2004, won the Nobel Prize this morning -- netting themselves a pot of 10 million Swedish kroner (about $1.49 million).

Despite its razor-thin makeup, graphene is one of the strongest, lightest and most conductive materials known to humankind. It’s also 97.3 percent transparent, but looks really cool under powerful microscopes. We’ve corralled some of the best shots here, with a bonus video of graphene being punished by an electron beam.

Mmmm... Graphene Cake

Theoretical physicist Philip Russell Wallace predicted graphene’s existence in 1947, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that scientists began looking for it in earnest. Forty years later, researchers practically wrote off isolating single-layer graphene. If the hexagonal layers didn’t roll up into buckeyballs or nanotubes, so the thinking went, they’d disintegrate entirely.

Geim and Novoselov persisted, however, and figured out how to isolate it using objects common to any office: Scotch tape and graphite, which is found in pencil leads.

At the top-right of this image is a 10-micron-wide, 30-layer-thick slice of graphene sheets.

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