Could a material just one atom thick change the world?

Hoarding design: Could a material just one atom thick change the world?

In 2004, researchers at the University of Manchester came up with a novel way to produce graphene – a form of carbon just one atom thick.

Graphene has some unusual properties – it’s exceptionally strong and conducts heat and electricity while being nearly transparent, for example – and has potential applications from water-purification to energy storage to wearable technology.

Those possibilities have already created a global market worth around £200 m a year, as well as having netted Professor Sir Andre Geim and Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.

Just as the invention of the marine chronometer made navigating the globe a triviality, and the transistor ushered in the computer age, graphene is the kind of breakthrough that could prove revolutionary – and is just the type of physics discovery that we want to facilitate and celebrate.

We help researchers, especially those near the start of their career, to reach their full potential by providing professional-development opportunities and helping to establish mentoring relationships. Our early-career awards recognise the best work done by physicists 12 years into their career or less. We aim to make sure that those beginning their careers today can be leading their field tomorrow.

Our publishing wing produces journals, books and ebooks, providing researchers with information on the latest developments in their field. Our 50 subject groups bring together physicists with shared interests, and they progress their own fields through activities like organising conferences, granting bursaries and awarding prizes. We organise Topical Research Meetings once or twice a year, in which 100 or more leading scientists gather for two days to discuss major topical themes in physics – the event in 2011 was graphene-themed.

Our annual awards ceremony – typically a black-tie dinner at a central-London hotel – celebrates the best in physics, honouring those who make some of the best contributions to a discipline with a powerful track record of changing the world.