ARLINGTON, Va.—A Nobel Prize-winning scientist—who helped isolate a new ultra-thin material called graphene that could revolutionize everything from circuits to industrial processes—spoke at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) on Oct. 17.
Dr. Andre Geim, a Russian-born British-Dutch physicist whose research has been supported by ONR since 2007, spoke about his pioneering studies of graphene, and its potential applications, at ONR headquarters in Arlington, Va., from 1 to 2 p.m. The title of his talk, "Random Walk to Stockholm," references the site where the Nobel Prize is awarded.
"ONR is proud to have been an early and ongoing supporter of Dr. Geim's work, which is revolutionary in the fields of physics and material science," said Dr. Lawrence Schuette, ONR's director of innovation and acting director of research. "The potential applications of graphene could be of enormous benefit to the warfighter, affecting everything from medical and industrial processes to circuits and solar cells."
Geim said he has been impressed with ONR's dedication to long-term research.
"These days, the general public and politicians seem to be interested only in bread and circuses [entertainment]," he said. "Funding agencies respond accordingly, by cutting down their support for curiosity-driven research. This has gradually resulted in a severe depletion of our knowledge base, upon which the whole human civilization has been based.
"ONR is one of the few remaining guardians who look beyond the immediate science horizon and manage to ignore populist and short-sighted calls for immediate return on investment. In all honesty, I find my ONR managers much more knowledgeable and interested in science than a fair share of fellow academics."
The future is unknown for graphene's uses, but experts agree it could be limitless. The single plane of carbon atoms is the thinnest material in the world, yet also one of the strongest. It is considered a superior alternative to silicon, which is used in platforms and technologies across military and civilian sectors, from personal computers to space vehicles.
"Graphene is truly a unique material," said Dr. Chagaan Baatar, a program officer at ONR who has sponsored Geim's research. "Its electrical, thermal, mechanical and optical properties are all record-setting, with application potential in wide-ranging fields—from super-strong, lightweight body armor to ultra-fast computing devices."
Geim, who currently teaches at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, is also acclaimed for his work on the effects of magnetism on water, and for his contribution to the development of an adhesive that became known as "gecko tape."
"We're thrilled" about Geim's visit, said Baatar. "It's important for ONR to be associated with a scientist of Dr. Geim's caliber—our organization has long been associated with the world's finest scientists, and that is clearly demonstrated in our support of Dr. Geim."
ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.
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