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Why Graphene Is the Stuff of the Future

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Ultra-high vacuum scanning tunneling microscope image of a point defect in graphene.

Nathan Guisinger / Argonne National Laboratory / EMMD Group / ShareAlike 2.0

Everything in our three-dimensional world has a width, length and height. That was what we thought, at least. But this picture overlooks a whole class of materials: crystals one atom or molecule thick, essentially two-dimensional planes of atoms shaved from conventional crystals.

These are turning out to be wonder materials. Take graphene, the single layers of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice that my colleagues and I first isolated in 2004. Graphene is stronger and stiffer than diamond, yet can be stretched by a quarter of its length, like rubber. Its surface area is the largest known for its weight.

Despite graphene's thinness it is impermeable to gases or liquids. It conducts heat and electricity better than copper, and can be made into transistors which are faster than those made from silicon.

From New Scientist
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