Two Russian Scientists have made like MacGyver and won the Nobel Prize in physics using Scotch tape.
It’s Nobel Prize awarding season. The Nobel prize for chemistry 2010 was awarded today to three scientists who who figured out how to bond carbon molecules using Palladium to make complex plastics and medicine—sounds like exactly the kind of fancy smarty-pants scientific work that wins you a Nobel prize.
But the real fun in Nobel prizing this year came yesterday. Two Russian scientists won the physics prize for their work in combining graphite molecules in a new structural arrangement to form the thinnest, strongest material on earth. Yes, this sounds a lot like the chemistry achievement. But in true MacGyver form, the Russians made their discovery using Scotch tape.
The associated press reports this morning:
“Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the University of Manchester in England used Scotch tape to rip off flakes of graphene from a chunk of graphite, the stuff of pencil leads. That achievement, reported just six years ago, opened the door to studying what scientists say should be a versatile building block for electronics and strong materials.”
It might sound like a headline from the Onion, but it’s no joke. University of Oxford professor Paolo Radaelli said, “In this age of complexity, with machines like the super collider, they managed to get the Nobel using Scotch tape.”
But don’t be fooled—even though the MacGyver-style discovery is good fun, the implications for the resulting material, “graphene,” are potentially world-changing. The material could lead to better, faster computers, cell phones, light-weight airplanes, and, reports the AP, “since it’s practically transparent, it could lead to see-through touch screens and maybe solar cells. It might also pay off for big TV screens.”
Scotch tape—sometimes you find breakthroughs in the damndest places.