New wonder material, one-atom thick, has scientists abuzz

WASHINGTON — Imagine a carbon sheet that’s only one atom thick but is stronger than diamond and conducts electricity 100 times faster than the silicon in computer chips.

That’s graphene, the latest wonder material coming out of science laboratories around the world. It’s creating tremendous buzz among physicists, chemists and electronic engineers.

“It is the thinnest known material in the universe, and the strongest ever measured,” Andre Geim , a physicist at the University of Manchester, England , wrote in the June 19 issue of the journal Science.

“A few grams could cover a football field,” said Rod Ruoff , a graphene researcher at the University of Texas, Austin , in an e-mail. A gram is about 1/30th of an ounce.

Like diamond, graphene is pure carbon. It forms a six-sided mesh of atoms that, through an electron microscope, looks like a honeycomb or piece of chicken wire. Despite its strength, it’s as flexible as plastic wrap and can be bent, folded or rolled up like a scroll.

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