TU scientists are ecstatic that TU Delft honorary doctor, Andre Geim, and Konstantin Novoselov (University of Manchester), have won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery of graphene. Both scientists have close ties to TU Delft.
The Russian scientists gained worldwide fame for their groundbreaking discovery of graphene, a stable conductor that holds great promise for developing chips in electrical devices and as a material for touchscreens.
“It’s fantastic news”, says Professor Lieven Vandersypen, of Delft’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience. “When we first heard about it at the laboratory, everyone was smiling.” Vandersypen has known Novoselov and Geim for years.
“They’re very creative scientists and have done marvellous research”, adds Ekkes Brück, Professor of Fundamental Aspects of Materials and Energy.
Geim and Novoselov have close links with TU Delft, where both men have given lectures. Geim, who worked at the University of Nijmegen from 1994 to 2001, was awarded an honorary doctorate by TU Delft last year. “When he received his doctorate, I predicted that one day he would win the Nobel Prize. I’m very happy I was right”, says Professor Brück, who was Geim’s second honorary doctoral advisor at Delft.
The story of how Geim and Novoselov discovered graphene is legendary. In search of a one-atom layer of graphite, they placed a piece of graphite on scotch tape. Very small bits of the graphite stuck to the tape, which they then put under a microscope and discovered graphene. “This approach shows how incredibly creative they are”, says Professor Leo Kouwenhoven, who was Geim’s first doctoral advisor for his honorary TU Delft doctorate.
Graphene has remarkable features. “It’s the only one atom layered material we can isolate that is stable”, says Kouwenhoven. “Electrons move at a constant speed through graphene; it seems as if they don’t have any mass.
Other materials are not as stable, Vandersypen adds. “In future graphene could be used in RF transistors in cell phones or as a material for making LCD and touchscreens, because it’s a transparent conductor. At the moment these screens are made of indiumtinoxide, which is a difficult and expensive material. However, before we can use graphene, there are some tough nuts to crack. It still must be produced on a large scale.”
After the scotch tape breakthrough five years ago, graphene became a hype. Numerous scientists are currently working with this material, including Prof. Vandersypen, who conducts fundamental research on graphene. “At the moment there are over fifty publications a month on graphene”, he says.
Because Geim has Dutch nationality, Dutch newspapers, are proclaiming that a ‘Nederlander’ has won the Nobel Prize. Kouwenhoven: “That’s an exaggeration. He hardly speaks Dutch, was born in Russia, and works in England. Nevertheless, we’re very proud of his achievement and prize.”
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