Over on his personal blog, Nature Physics editor Ed Gerstner has a very nice post on graphene at the March meeting. Graphene, you may remember, are atomically thin sheets of carbon that display all sorts of cool properties. At last year’s meeting Graphene took the headlines: There was lots of talk about using sheets for displays and ribbons of the stuff for transistors.
I count 28 sessions on graphene this year, the same as 2009, but the energy and excitement is much diminished. A year of work on ribbons (the only formulation of graphene that could work as a transistor) has yielded little progress in controlling the raggedy edges of the material. What’s more, it seems unlikely that graphene could support currents high enough to make it useful in electronics. The session I attended this morning was a low-key affair, nobody seemed to have cracked the problems posed by the material.
Ed suggests that graphene may have passed its peak, but I’m not so sure. Other subjects like iron pnictides and topological insulators are more fashionable this year, but they’re unlikely to replace graphene’s popularity. The bottom line is that graphene is basically glorified pencil lead. That makes it cheap and fairly easy to synthesize and work with. And graphene’s two-dimensional nature means that it really does behave more strangely than other “bulk” materials. Bottom line, graphene may be a little bit down this year, but I wouldn’t count it out just yet.