Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Levitating frogs and one-atom thick graphite

Check out this article about a pair of nobel prize winners from England or somewhere. I'm not so interested in the guys, but in the stuff in the article. Apparently one time they levitated a frog in a magnetic field (I wonder whether the frog was affected by the mag field like people who live underneath major power transmission lines), which, while pretty cool, is not the source of their Nobel prize (they did get an Ig Nobel prize for that one).

No, the reason they won the Nobel prize was their work with graphite. That's right pencil lead material. Not satisfied with 0.9, 0.7, or 0.5 leads, or the not so familiar buckeyball or carbon nanotube, these guys decided to make ultrathin graphite layers using good ol' Scotch tape. Seriously: they took a small pile of graphite and began peeling layers of the carbonic material off using Scotch tape. Then, with a small flake of graphite, they kept folding the tape over onto it (I would assume a fresh, clean patch of tape each time) until they'd arrived at a layer of graphite that was one atom thick. That's what I found remarkably interesting: Scotch tape can rip off a one atom thick layer of graphite! That is, given a two-atom thick layer of graphite, if that's too thick for you, put it between two pieces of Scotch tape, pull it apart, and you get a one-atom thick layer of graphite on each side.  How's that for cool?  Quite an endorsement for Scotch tape!

Now, go read the rest of the article for more interesting properties of this cool new ultra-thin, super-strong graphite. Might be making some really awesome body armor before long, or all sorts of other cool applications.  Later...

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