If I were to ask you what could be considered a strong contender for “the most far-reaching technological breakthrough of the 21st century to date”, it’s unlikely your answer would be “graphene”. And yet that is the bold claim made by Brian Clegg in his latest book The Graphene Revolution: the Weird Science of the Ultrathin.
The so-called “wonder material” graphene is an atom-thick tessellated-hexagon lattice of carbon atoms, and was first isolated by Russian physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2004. The opening chapter of the book describes in vivid detail the now-popular story of the scientist duo’s regular “Friday night experiment” slots, levitating frogs and how the pair used a bit of sticky tape to create the first layer of graphene – work that led them to win the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics. Clegg looks into the history of atomic physics and also provides the quantum basis to a lot of the unique and bizarre material properties that graphene exhibits. But despite its title, it is only in the final chapter of the book that Clegg describes the actual applications that have utilized this wondrous material and one can’t help but feel as though the graphene revolution is far from its heyday just yet. 2018 Icon Books 176pp £8.99pb Enjoy the rest of the August 2018 issue of Physics World in our digital magazine or via the Physics World app for any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. Membership of the Institute of Physics required