Graphene: from relativistic quantum theory to future electronics
Could solving the problems of theoretical physics, seemingly distant from reality, influence our daily life? The story of graphene, already being called ‘the wonder material’, suggests the answer is ‘Yes’
by ADAM RYCERZ JAGIELLONIAN (Universidad de Cracovia)
We take it as given that all properties of matter originate from the laws of quantum mechanics. We rarely realize, however, that the true power of the nearly hundred-year-old quantum theory lies not in its ability to explain observed phenomena and properties of existing materials but on its so-called ‘predicting ability’—quantum theory can tell us how a new material will behave when it exists only in the mind of a scientist or on the virtual drawing board of a computer well before the material is created in the laboratory. The quantum theory’s predictive ability, for example, allows it to play the role of genetic engineering in the inanimate world.
Rapid development in the last 25 years in microelectronic devices has been accompanied by landmark changes in the spread of scientific information, preprint databases and open access journals being two examples of what the information revolutions has achieved. Together, the two developments have dramatically decreased the time it takes to turn a mathematical concept into a functional device based on that concept. This article tells the story of graphene, the material which I had an opportunity to work on directly soon after it was discovered in 2005, and also mentions a few other fascinating materials, developed in the last few years, that may soon show their potential.
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