A few years ago in 2010, two physicists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, working in the physics department at the University of Manchester, did something incredible: made graphene. It was the truest example of a black swan event. The isolation process was simple enough, they stuck carbon onto adhesive tape, and pulled. The extremely thin layer of carbon on the piece of tape won them the Nobel prize in physics. You probably don’t know it, but chances are good that you have made graphene many times in your life. Draw a line with a pencil and small bits of graphene will flake off. Of course, this method is extremely unreliable, but hey, you tried.
Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a repeating pattern of hexagons. It is stronger than diamond, conducts electricity and heat better than any material ever discovered, and is the lightest man made material on the planet. It is one million times thinner than paper; so thin that it is actually considered two dimensional. Graphene’s flat honeycomb pattern grants it the status of strongest material in the world. How strong? Well, let’s just say it would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.
You might be thinking right now, “I’m here to read interesting stuff, not a nerdy science thing”. Well, let me tell you something cool, we’ll have bendable devices that shrink and enlarge at the touch, no, heat, of your palm; particle accelerates within laboratories, instead of out on inaccessible mountain ranges (like having the Large Hadron Collider in a laptop); the amazing possibility of electric planes, and so much more. All of this, made possible by a material that is no thicker than an atom. Seems rather outlandish, doesn’t it?
But hold your horses, pal. These things haven’t happened yet, since graphene is still in its infancy. So it is our duty, as the next generation, to take the next big step in the evolution of technology, and by extension, evolve as a species.
I mean, that’s what life is all about, right?