STOCKHOLM - Two Russian-born scientists shared the 2010 Nobel Prize for physics for showing how carbon just one atom thick behaved, a breakthrough with implications in areas from quantum physics to consumer electronics.
Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both with the University of Manchester, conducted experiments with graphene, a new form of carbon that is both the thinnest and strongest material known.
"Since it is practically transparent and a good conductor, graphene is suitable for producing transparent touch screens, light panels and maybe even solar cells," the committee said.
Novoselov, 36, is a dual British-Russian citizen while Geim, 51, is a Dutch citizen. A committee official said Novoselov was the youngest physics laureate since 1973.
Geim, speaking at a Nobel news conference via telephone, said he had not expected the prize and would try not to let the news change his routine.
"My plan for today is to go to work and finish up a paper that I didn't finish this week," he said. "I just try to muddle on as before."
The pair extracted the super-thin material from a piece of graphite such as that found in ordinary pencils using adhesive tape.
"Playfulness is one of their hallmarks, one always learns something in the process and, who knows, you may even hit the jackpot," the committee said in its release.
One millimetre of graphite actually consists of 3 million layers of graphene stacked on top of each other, the academy said, although they are weakly held together.
"Anyone who has written something with an ordinary pencil has experienced this, and it is possible, when they did, that only a single layer of atoms, graphene, happened to end up on the paper." The material is almost completely transparent yet so dense that not even the smallest gas atom can pass through it. It also conducts electricity as well as copper.
The academy said that graphene offered physicists the ability to study two-dimensional materials with unique properties and made possible experiments that can give new twists to the phenomena in quantum physics.
"Also a vast variety of practical applications now appear possible including the creation of new materials and the manufacture of innovative electronics," it said.
Mentioning a few possible applications, the academy said graphene transistors were expected to become much faster than today's silicon ones and yield more efficient computers.
The prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5 million), awarded by the Nobel Committee for Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, was the second of this year's Nobel prizes.
Thomson Reuters predicted in 2008 that Geim and Novoselov were likely winners. David Pendlebury of Thomson Reuters makes predictions every year based on a citation index -- looking at how often a particular researcher's published studies are used as the basis of work by other researchers.
The full report is available at http://science.thomsonreuters.com/nobel. (Editing by Sonya Hepinstall) (Stockholm Newsroom, +46-8-7001017; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)) ($1=6.749 Swedish Crown)
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