University of Manchester Scientists win Nobel Prize for Physics

 University of Manchester scientists win the Nobel Prize for Physics

Coup for UK Physics, as two University of Manchester scientists are awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery of graphene.

Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov have been awarded the highest accolade in the scientific world for their pioneering work with the world’s thinnest material, graphene.

This represents a landmark achievement for Physics in the UK, as it is the first time an academic or academics have received the Nobel Prize for Physics while on the staff of a UK university since 1979.

Graphene, with the potential to revolutionize the electronics industry, was discovered by Professors Geim and Novoselov at the University in 2004. It has rapidly become one of the hottest topics in materials science and solid-state physics.

Professor Novoselov, 36, known as Kostya, first worked with Professor Geim, 51, as a PhD-student in the Netherlands. Andre Geim joined the University of Manchester in 2001, Kostya Novoselov followed Geim to Manchester in 2004. Both of them originally studied and began their careers as physicists in Russia.

The award of the Nobel Prize means there are currently four Nobel Laureates at The University of Manchester.
Professor Geim said: “This is a fantastic honour. People have been talking about graphene as a possible prize winner for a number of years so for the community in graphene research it hardly comes as a surprise.

“However I personally did not expect to get this prize. I slept soundly last night because I never expected to win it.

“Having won the Nobel Prize, some people sit back and stop doing anything, whereas others work so hard that they go mad in a few years. But I will be going into the office as usual and continuing to work hard and paddle through life as usual.“I have lots of research papers to work on at the moment which all need writing up so I will be carrying on as normal.

“I have a fantastic working relationship with Kostya. We worked together in Holland and then I managed to bring him to England with me.“Very often I fall out with people who don’t work hard but I have never fallen out with those who work as hard as Kostya.”

Professor Konstantin Novoselov said: “I was really shocked when I heard the news and my first thought was to go to the lab and tell the team.“I didn’t know until this morning when I had a call from Stockholm.

“We have had a fantastic seven years working together on this new material graphene.
“The University is well suited to this style of research- we have excellent facilities.
“It’s great to be a young academic at The University of Manchester and I’m grateful to everyone who has collaborated with us.”

Since the material’s discovery, Professor Geim and Dr Novoselov have published numerous research papers in prestigious journals such as Science and Nature, which have demonstrated the exquisite new physics for the material and its potential in novel applications such as ultrafast transistors just one atom thick – making it a potential successor to silicon – and sensors that can detect just a single molecule of a toxic gas.

A team of materials scientists and physicists from Manchester recently reported that graphene has the potential to replace carbon fibres in high performance materials that are used to build aircraft.

University of Manchester President and Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell said: “This is fantastic news. We are delighted that Andre and Konstantin’s work on graphene has been recognised at the very highest level by the 2010 Nobel Prize Committee.

“This is a wonderful example of a fundamental discovery based on scientific curiosity with major practical, social and economic benefits for society.”

Vice-President and Dean of Engineering and Physical Sciences Professor Colin Bailey added: “This is a truly tremendous achievement, and is a testimony to the quality of research that is being carried out in Physics and more broadly across the University”.

At aged 36 Konstantin Novoselov is the 13th youngest of the 189 Physics Nobel Laureates. He is just one member of the next generation of brilliant academics the University is attracting who walk in the footsteps of iconic figures in their field.

The long-term impact of E R Langworthy’s generosity

The Langworthy chair held by Andre Geim was founded through a bequest of £10,000 by E. R. Langworthy in 1874 for the purpose of endowing a Professorship in experimental physics.  It began in Owens College which became the Victoria University Manchester and was held by the University’s first Nobel Prize winner Ernest Rutherford who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1908.

Andre Geim becomes the third Langworthy Professor of Physics at Manchester to win the Nobel Prize for Physics. The first was William Lawrence Bragg who won the prize in 1915. At 25 years of age Lawrence remains the youngest Nobel Laureate ever across all disciplines. Lord Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, who succeeded Lawrence Bragg and held the chair between 1937 and 1953, won the Physics Prize in 1948.

The endowment continues to support the Langworthy Chair today.  The far-sighted generosity of E R Langworthy has therefore directly supported the work of four future Nobel laureates, including Andre Geim’s award 136 years after the endowment was created.

The future of scientific enquiry in the UK

This announcement comes at a time of national debate in the UK around the future of ‘pure’ science funding and freedom of movement for the world’s top scientists.

Professor Martin Rees, president of the UK’s Royal Society commented “It would be hard to envisage better exemplars of the value of enabling outstanding individuals to pursue ‘open-ended’ research projects whose outcome is unpredictable.  These two brilliant scientists were attracted to the UK by the promise of adequate funding and a supportive environment in a first-rate university. There are surely important lessons to be drawn by the Government from the Nobel Committee’s decision.

“The UK must sustain our science at a competitive level in a world where talent is mobile and other countries are advancing fast – and eliminate immigration restrictions that would impede the in-flow of talent. The UK’s investment in the physical sciences is paying off and needs to be sustained.”

 The award has attracted major national and international press coverage:

The Independent

The Nobel Prize that was made in Manchester

The Daily Telegraph
How pencil lead and sticky tape led to Nobel Prize

The Guardian
Nobel prize for physics goes to Manchester University scientists

In the USA: USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times

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