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Graphene wins a Nobel and has a local connection

Richard Banks
via Flickr
Graphene's structure looks like chicken wire.

The Nobel Prize for Physics was announced this morning. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselev will share the honor for probing into the trendy super-material, graphene.  They’ll go halfsies on the $1.4 million award.

If I could just slip this in there: Buffalo has a connection.

A Niagara Falls-based company, Graphene Devices, won a spate of federal grants recently to investigate novel uses of graphene. Their personnel, ideas and technology stem from work started in labs at the University at Buffalo. The company’s story is what economic development folks are banking on for Buffalo’s future economy: homegrown research translating into successful private ventures.

What’s all the fuss about? Basically, graphene is the Lebron James of nanomaterials. From the New York Times:

Graphene is a form of carbon in which the atoms are arranged…a single atom thick. It is not only the thinnest material in the world, but also the strongest: a sheet of it stretched over a coffee cup could support the weight of a truck bearing down on a pencil point.

The point is, this nano is macho.

Graphene Devices will use its federal grants for more practical uses than balancing trucks on pencil points in spacial surfaces equal to coffee cup surfaces. One example: the company is developing a graphene-based material for armor, with money from the U.S. Army.

Graphene is one of those buzzworthy inventions that has one of those too-good-to-be-true auras. You know, like saving 15 percent on your car insurance or the Bloom Box. Besides being strong (same NYT article):

...graphene is able to conduct electricity and heat better than any other known material, and it is completely transparent. Physicists say that eventually it could rival silicon as a basis for computer chips, serve as a sensitive pollution-monitoring material, improve flat screen televisions, and enable the creation of new materials and novel tests of quantum weirdness, among other things.

I will be interviewing the CEO and leading scientist of Graphene Devices tomorrow. A story link will be here soon after. Check back, Innovation Trail hikers!

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And check out this information page. With a title like “Graphene is a thoroughbred that needs to be tamed” how can you pass it up?