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Steve Chaplin
IU Communications

Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2012

Russian physicist -- Nobel winner for graphene work, levitator of frogs -- to give public lecture at IU

Geim to visit for endowed Konopinski Lecture Series

Feb. 17, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Sir Andre Geim, a physicist who has made frogs float by diamagnetic levitation and who used sticky tape as a key lab tool in winning the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with graphene, will present the 22nd Joseph and Sophia Konopinski Memorial Lecture in Physics on Wednesday, Feb. 22 .

Sir Andre Geim

Nobel Prize winner Sir Andre Geim

Print-Quality Photo

The Russian-born professor of physics at The University of Manchester, United Kingdom, will present the public lecture at 7:30 p.m. at Indiana Memorial Union's Alumni Hall, with a reception to follow at IMU's University Club.

Geim's prize-winning research was published in 2004, and well over 1,000 research papers about graphene have appeared since. Graphite, the stuff in lead pencils, is composed of stacks of two-dimensional sheets of carbon atoms (graphene). Before Geim's work, it was believed that graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms resembling something like an atomic scale chicken wire, was likely to be unstable, and that graphite was stable only when the sheets were stacked on top of one another.

"Geim produced a two-dimensional layer of carbon just one atom thick by peeling a layer off of graphite using Scotch tape," said IU physicist J. Timothy Londergan. "Geim and his collaborator were then able to show that graphene was not only stable, it has one of the highest tensile strengths of any known material. The ramifications are mind-boggling, hence the 1,000-plus papers about graphene since. Without doubt, graphene-based electronics will play a major role in the next generation of ultrafast computers since electrons travel a lot quicker than they do in silicon, at speeds 300 times slower than the speed of light. These electrons are relativistic!"

At one atom thick, graphene is the world's thinnest, strongest nanomaterial and an excellent conductor of both electricity and heat. With a single layer thickness of 0.335 nanometers, a stack of 3 million sheets of graphene would be 1 millimeter thick.

"All of our Konopinski speakers are extremely interesting, but Geim is an especially interesting person," Londergan said. "Every year in addition to the Nobel prizes, a group puts out what are called Ig Nobel prizes, some of which are ironic and satirical -- firms like Goldman Sachs were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize in Economics after they nearly wrecked the world's economy -- but others are given for work that sounds wacky but is really serious. Geim is the first person to have won an Ig Nobel Prize followed by the Nobel Prize awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences."

It was the diamagnetic levitation of a frog that won Geim the Ig Nobel in 2002 when he used magnets to exert a force upwards on the atoms of the frog, compensating for the force of gravity. The video can be viewed here.

The Konopinski Lecture Series was endowed in 1990 by a bequest from the late IU physics professor Emil Konopinski, in honor of his parents, Joseph and Sophia Konopinski. Emil Konopinski was a physics professor emeritus at IU who worked with Enrico Fermi on the construction of the first nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago, then went to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in World War II with J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller to begin research on the first atomic bomb. He died in 1990 at the age of 78.

For more information, please contact Steve Chaplin, IU Communications, at 812-856-1896 or Tweeting Indiana University science news: @IndianaScience