First Graphene Transistor and Alfred Nobel's Will at Nobel Museum Can Impress Anyone

A look into the discovery and first days of graphene, a super-material revolutionising fields from electronics to telecommunications to aerospace to healthcare takes us to the Nobel Museum where we can explore the Nobel Prize in Physics, see the first graphene transistor, and read Alfred Nobel's will.

First Graphene Transistor and Alfred Nobel's Will at Nobel Museum Can Impress Anyone
Graphene-Nobel Museum Stockholm/Photo: © Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering

Graphene consists of a network of carbon atoms just one atom thick. It was discovered by Professor Sir Andre Geim and Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov, researchers at the University of Manchester, England, in 2004.

The physicists used regular Scotch tape to separate thin flakes of carbon from a piece of graphite.  

Graphite is a form of carbon like the one used in pencils. Physicists had anticipated that extremely thin flakes of graphite would have interesting properties. However, it was considered impossible to produce it in reality. 

Graphene: One of the great discoveries of the 21st century 

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov thought they could make the impossible possible. They attempted to separate thin flakes of carbon from a single piece of graphite using regular Scotch tape.

Having a closer look under the microscope, these flakes were just a few atoms thick. Finally, after many unsuccessful trials, they had discovered graphene. 

Nanotechnology

Researchers Introduce Graphene Printing Technique that Silk-Screens Flexible Electronics

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov's perseverance was rewarded first, with the discovery of a new material that was going to revolutionize the future of electronics and telecommunications applications, among other fields.

Later, the scientists were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2010 for their groundbreaking experiments and discovery of a super-material. 

Graphene is stronger than steel, harder than diamonds, more conductive than copper, more flexible than rubber, it is transparent to the point of being almost invisible. Graphene is also a great electricity conductor. It conducts electricity 100 times faster than silicon. It can also be molded in any shape you want. Graphene is one of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century. 

Graphene, early days 

Back then, the discovery of graphene opened obvious new opportunities within the electronics and semiconductor industries. One of the first tests of graphene's potential that the physicists tried was its use in transistors. 

Another initial commercial application for graphene-based inks in the early days included the high-speed manufacturing of inexpensive printed electronics, smart packaging, RFID tags, and disposable bio-sensors. 

graphene nobel museum © susan fourtané
Display of the graphite, Scotch tape, and graphene transistor donated by the physicists to the Nobel Museum in Stockholm. Nobel Prize in Physics 2010. Graphene's unusual properties make it a super-material/ Photo: © Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering  

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov donated the graphite, roll of Scotch tape, and graphene transistor to the Nobel Museum in 2010.

The physicists' donation of their first graphene transistor, now on display at the Nobel Museum, was the starting point for a series of ideas for new discoveries and applications of graphene from scientists from all around the world.

Advertisement

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov never patented their discovery. 

graphene nobel museum © susan fourtané

Graphite, roll of Scotch tape, and graphene transistor donated to the Nobel Museum in Stockholm by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2010/ Photo: © Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 

Nobel Museum and the Nobel Prize in Physics 

The Nobel Museum is located in the beautiful Old Town (Gamla Stan) of Stockholm, Sweden. Its mission is to support and spread knowledge in the fields of science, arts, and peace creating discussion through creative learning, exhibition techniques, and modern technology. 

Courage, creativity, and persistence result in ideas and discoveries that change the world. Nobel Laureates have been inspiring generations of new scientists giving hope for a brilliant future ahead.

The Nobel Museum illustrates and exhibits changes and advances from over a century through the ideas, work, and discoveries of over 900 Nobel Laureates presented through short film, original artifacts, and computers.

Advertisement
nobel museum Stockholm © susan fourtané
Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden / Photo: © Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 

Facts on the Nobel Prize in Physics 

The Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded to those scientists who have made the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the field of Physics, has been awarded 112 times to 210 Physics Laureates up to date.

"The Nobel Prize in Physics 2010 was awarded jointly to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene." 

The Award has been presented annually since 1901 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in Stockholm, Sweden. The Nobel Prize in Physics was not awarded on six occasions (1916, 1931, 1934, 1940, 1941, and 1942). 

According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation"If none of the works under consideration is found to be of the importance indicated in the first paragraph, the prize money shall be reserved until the following year. If, even then, the prize cannot be awarded, the amount shall be added to the Foundation's restricted funds." 

Advertisement

World War I and World War II also affected the Nobel Prize Award; fewer prizes were awarded during both wars. 

The youngest Nobel Laureate in Physics is Lawrence Bragg. He shared the award with his father, William Bragg, in 1915. Lawrence was 25 years old. The oldest Nobel Laureate in Physics is Arthur Ashkin. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018. He was 96 years old.

John Bardeen has received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956 and in 1972. He is the only person to date who has received the award twice. Marie Curie is the only person who has been awarded both the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1903, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, in 1911.  

Advertisement

Since the first Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded in 1901, only three times it has been awarded to a woman. The first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics was Marie Curie, who received the award in 1903.

It was not until 1963, that another woman, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. And 55 years later, in 2018, Donna Strickland became the first woman in the 21st century who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. 

Of course, among the most distinguished Nobel Prize in Physics Laureates are Prof Sir Andre Geim and Prof Sir Konstantin Novoselov, who received the award in 2010 for their groundbreaking discovery of graphene. 

Advertisement

Alfred Nobel's will 

Alfred Nobel Original Will displayed at the Nobel Museum © Susan Fourtané
Alfred Nobel's original will manuscript displayed at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden/ Photo: © Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 

The Nobel Prize was established thanks to the last will of Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel, who signed his last will and testament in Paris, France on November 27, 1895, a year before his death. Alfred Nobel died on December 10, 1896, in San Remo, Italy.

Alfred Nobel had decided to give almost all his fortune to a series of prizes.

Nobel's original will manuscript, which is in the exhibition at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm and pictured here above, details each of the prizes.

The part dedicated to Physics reads that the prize will be awarded to "the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics." 

Advertisement

At the end of the detail of what institution should be in charge of each award, Alfred Nobel stated: "It is my express wish that when awarding the prizes, no consideration be given to nationality, but that the prize be awarded to the worthiest person, whether or not they are Scandinavian." 

The full text of Alfred Nobel's will can be read here in English and Swedish.