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Why graphene holds the key to the future (5/14/2011)

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Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal rings, is the latest "wonder material" that has taken scientific communities and industrial sectors by storm.

Bearing excellent material properties, such as high current-carrying capacity and thermal conductivity, graphene is ideally suited for creating components for semiconductor circuits and computers. Moreover, it enables table-top experimental tests of a number of phenomena in physics involving quantum mechanics and relativity.

Jeanie Lau, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Riverside, will give a free public lecture on campus to discuss what graphene is, why it is interesting, what novel properties it boasts, and how it may impact our lives in 10-20 years.

Titled "Size Matters: Nanotechnology & Other Wonders in Carbon Flatland," the hour-long lecture will begin at 6 p.m., May 19, in Rooms D-E, University Extension Center (UNEX).

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Seating is open. Parking at UNEX will be free for lecture attendees.

"Graphene has many wondrous properties that are literally mind-boggling," said Lau, recipient of a 2009 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. "For instance, it is stronger than steel yet softer than Saran wrap; it is transparent yet conducts electricity and heat much better than copper. It has been hailed as the most promising material to replace silicon for the next generation of electronics. It is produced by every school kid, but was only 'discovered' in 2004 and won the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for its co-discoverers."

Graphene's planar geometry allows the fabrication of electronic devices and the tailoring of a variety of electrical properties. Because it is only one-atom thick, it can potentially be used to make ultra-small devices and further miniaturize electronics. Scientifically, it is a new model system for condensed-matter physics, the branch of physics that deals with the physical properties of solid materials.

Lau's talk is being hosted by UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and the Science Circle, a group of university and community members committed to advancing science at UCR and in Inland Southern California.

The talk is the last of four lectures scheduled this year. The lecture series, titled "Science & Society: Major Issues of the 21st Century," aims to boost the public's awareness and understanding of science and of how scientists work.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the University of California - Riverside

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