Graphene and the Nobel Prize in Physics


Every once in a while, a new technology discovery brings with it the potential to revolutionize the way we live and do business. Graphene matches that blueprint, because its application can improve or overhaul the existing paradigm in so many scenarios.

It’s a one-cell carbon film that is the basis for materials stronger than steel, is capable of being transparent and can replace expensive materials like platinum and iridium. Imagine some of that material used for a stronger screen applied to a Kindle, iPad, smart phone, or used to transfer and store energy more efficiently in solar panels.

The story behind graphene starts with two scientists at the University of Manchester, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work: Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. They began by peeling away layers of crystal with scotch tape and refined the process to create incredibly thin strips of carbon. The process gets more complex from there, but its impact in the energy and device efficiencies space is far reaching.

So far, fossil fuel still owns a strong lead over other sources of energy because it’s cheaper to exploit. Despite the difficulty we now have with drilling for new oil and transporting it to locations where it’s needed most, it still provides the biggest bang for the dollar, sometimes literally. Graphene could change that to some degree because it creates less resistance to electrical circuits and potentially can store energy more efficiently.

eTraditional Search Learning Activity
Assign students a report of at least 150 words or a presentation of at least seven slides on the significance of the research and development of Graphene and nanotechnology to the future of electronic, engineering, and medicine.

Students should cite at least three resources and address the following essential questions for critical thinking (you can substitute or add others):

  • What are the properties of Graphene that make it unique?
  • How can Graphene be used to create new technologies that benefit consumers?
  • What is nanotechnology and why does it have important implications for our future in engineering and medicine?

Suggested Databases to use:

Article search in Gale’s Power Search

Science in Context

Type “Graphene” in the Search box  or “Graphene or nanotechnology”
Your students can use our custom ProQuest models for written and PowerPoint-style reports.

Teachers may be interested in a ProQuest flexible rubrics model for evaluating inquiry-based learning activities.

Educators may also wish to employ the Quizinator Web tool (free, but registration required) for creating a variety of printed resources, including short assessments.

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