Graphene is a material of many superlatives. Notably, it’s the best conductor of electricity at room temperature and the strongest material ever tested. Now, just six years after their groundbreaking work, the two who performed the first experiments on the single-atom-thick carbon material (Graphene Wins Nobel Prize), Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both in the physics department at the University of Manchester, have received the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Perhaps one reason the prize was bestowed so soon after the work it recognizes is that materials scientists have already taken graphene from basic science experiments to prototypes of new devices. In one noteworthy example from this year, researchers at IBM made graphene transistor arrays that operate at 100 gigahertz—switching on and off 100 billion times each second, about 10 times as fast as the speediest silicon transistors (Graphene Transistors that Can Work at Blistering Speeds). Work at Samsung capitalized on graphene’s conductivity and flexibility to make flexible touch screens (Flexible Touch Screen Made with Printed Graphene).
Flexible Printed Electronics Advance
Other flexible materials for electronics also saw progress this year. Working with carbon nanotubes, researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota made the fastest printed electronics yet (Record Performance for Printed Electronics). Printed electronics holds out the promise of flexible devices that can be fabricated at high volume and low cost. Researchers at HP continued their work scaling up flexible display drivers made from thin films of silicon on rolls of plastic (Inexpensive, Unbreakable Displays and A Flexible Color Display). Meanwhile, groups at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, printed pressure sensors that match the sensitivity of human skin (Electric Skin that Rivals the Real Thing and Printing Electronic Skin).
And a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, took steps this year toward commercializing high-performance printed electronics. MC10 announced collaborations with Reebok and Diagnostics for All aimed at getting its stretchable arrays of integrated circuits, LEDs, and other silicon devices into products (Stretchable Silicon Could Make Sports Apparel Smarter and Cheap Electronics on Paper Diagnostic Chips).