Graphene is a one-atom thick, transparent layer of carbon—the same material inside a pencil. It is the first two-dimensional crystal ever known, and despite its minute size, is also the strongest material known to exist: it’s harder than diamond and around 200 times stronger than steel, yet remains unbelievably flexible. The material is a revolutionary discovery that has a wide range of potential applications that will drastically accelerate several industries. The researchers who obtained it, Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

Scientists knew graphene existed since 1859, but they could not find a way to obtain it until researchers from the University of Manchester found a way to extract it from graphite in 2004—by simply using tape. Scientists the world over are now on a race to overcome the manufacturing difficulties keeping graphene from launching for full-scale use.