06 Oct 2010   |   News

ERC starting grant holder wins Nobel physics prize

A recipient of one of the European Research Council’s first grants, Konstantin Novoselov, has won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on graphene.

A recipient of one of the European Research Council’s (ERC) first grants, Konstantin Novoselov, has won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on graphene, a new carbon material that is expected to have widespread application in electronics and photonics.

Novoselov, who was awarded his ERC Starting Grant in 2007, becomes one of the youngest Nobel Prize winners, at the age of 36. The prize was awarded jointly to Novoselov and his fellow Russian Andre Geim, with whom he carried out the research at Manchester University. Geim has been funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for the past ten years, most recently being awarded a £5 million grant in October 2009.  

The ERC said the award to Novoselov demonstrates the trust and support the ERC gives to young top researchers, and is also a recognition that the type of work funded by the Council is at the frontiers of science.

European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said she was “thrilled” the Nobel Prize has gone to the holder of an ERC grant. “This is a first for the European Research Council, and I hope more Nobel Prizes will follow as a result of this valuable European investment in the best scientists and in their innovative research in Europe.”

Novoselov received five-years’ funding from the ERC to investigate the physics and applications of graphene, a new class of material comprising two-dimensional atomic crystals. Such crystals can be seen as individual atomic planes “pulled out” of bulk crystals and were previously presumed not to exist in the free state. Yet despite being only one atom thick and unprotected from the immediate environment, these materials can be extremely stable.

The objective of Novoselov’s research is to investigate new effects, which are expected to be abundant in graphene, and to exploit possible applications. One of the priorities will be studies of graphene-based transistor applications.

Facts about graphene

  • Graphene is the world’s thinnest material.

  • One atom thick, it’s the strongest material ever measured, incredibly stiff yet flexible, and a phenomenal conductor of heat and electricity.

  • Electrons travel further in graphene than in any other material, opening up a range of potential electronic applications.

  • Graphene-based integrated circuits could reduce the size and increase the sophistication of devices such as computers and mobile phones.

  • Graphene-based transistors could help communications technologies exploit the terahertz part of the electromagnetic spectrum

  • Other potential uses include a new generation of toxin and pollution sensors that are much more sensitive than those currently available.

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