Two Nobel laureates involved in the creation of graphene, a sheet of carbon just one atom thick, have received knighthoods in the New Year Honours. Profs Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, from the University of Manchester, won the physics Nobel Prize in 2010 for their pioneering research.

Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, one of the 2009 chemistry Nobel Prize winners, has also received a knighthood. Recipients from technology and science sectors make up 3% of this year’s list. A knighthood has also been given to Prof Robert Watson, chief scientific adviser to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Profs Geim and Novoselov, both originally from Russia, first worked together in the Netherlands before moving to the UK. They were based at the University of Manchester when they published their seminal research paper on graphene in October 2004.

It was their work on the world’s thinnest material that was recognised by the Nobel committee in 2010 for “for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene”. Graphene is a form of carbon. It is a flat layer of carbon atoms tightly packed into a two-dimensional honeycomb arrangement.             –Agencies

Because it is so thin, it is also practically transparent. As a conductor of electricity, it performs as well as copper; and as a conductor of heat, it outperforms all other known materials.

The unusual electronic, mechanical and chemical properties of graphene at the molecular scale promise ultra-fast transistors for electronics.

Some scientists have predicted that graphene could one day replace silicon - which is the current material of choice for transistors.

It could also yield incredibly strong, flexible and stable materials and find applications in transparent touch screens or solar cells.