Nobel Prize winners Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were recognized today for their work with one-atom thick carbon known as graphene. The Nobel Prize committee recognized their "playfulness."
University of Manchester/AP
Two Russian-born scientists shared the 2010 Nobel Prize for physics for showing how carbon just one atom thick behaved, a discovery with profound implications from quantum physics to consumer electronics.
Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the University of Manchester conducted experiments with graphene. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is a new form of carbon that is both the thinnest and toughest material known.
"Since it is practically transparent and a good conductor, graphene is suitable for producing transparent touch screens, light panels, and maybe even solar cells," the committee said.
Novoselov, 36, is a dual British-Russian citizen while Geim, 51, is a Dutch citizen. A committee official said Novoselov was the youngest physics laureate since 1973.
Geim, speaking at a Nobel news conference via telephone, said he had not expected the prize and would try not to let the news change his routine.
"My plan for today is to go to work and finish up a paper that I didn't finish this week," he said. "I just try to muddle on as before."
The pair extracted the material from a piece of graphite such as that found in ordinary pencils using adhesive tape, repeating the tape-trick until they were left with miniscule flakes of graphene.
The normally sober-sounding academy celebrated the "playfulness" that the two scientists exhibited.
Geim especially does not mind injecting humour into science. In 1997 he levitated a frog using a magnetic field, winning himself a tongue-in-cheek "IgNobel Award" from the Annals of Improbable Research in 2000.
"I think I'm the first person who won both. I'm very proud of these prizes," he said.
Mark Miodownik, head of a research unit at King's College London, said the award will bring a smile to the face of every scientist. "It shows you can still get a Nobel Prize by mucking about in a lab."