The Friday evening antics that led to the invention of graphene have become the stuff of scientific legend. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at Manchester University were playing around with Scotch tape and a lump of graphite when they found they could make sheets of carbon one atom thick. That was in 2004. They have since shared the Nobel prize, become Sirs and been rewarded with a £61m National Graphene Institute.
And all for good reason. Graphene is an extraordinary material. Apart from its many other properties, it’s immensely strong, flexible, transparent and conductive. This makes it perfect for the next generation of electronic devices, the sort that might be sewn into our clothing, slapped on drinks bottles and cans of food or rolled up and tucked in our pockets.
“Graphene has huge potential,” says Andrea Ferrari, director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre. “You don’t usually find a material that has applications in so many different areas.”