Nobelprijs 2010
Nobelprijs 2010

Radboud100: The value of a Nobel Prize (2010)

Radboud University has not yet had a Nobel Prize winner in its ranks. However, it does share in the honour of one prize, which was awarded in December 2010 to Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov for their production of graphene. This excerpt is about the Nijmegen origins of their Nobel Prize in Physics, and its subsequent impact.

The 'third Nobel laureate': 'It holds great promise for a wide range of applications'

'During our research into graphene, which formed the basis for our Nobel Prize-winning research, we made the important breakthrough of making graphene in a stable form. This extremely flat variant of carbon, which is only one atom thick, possesses some unique properties: it’s strong, flexible, impenetrable and highly conductive. This offered great promise for a wide range of technological applications, such as those that are used in transistors and touchscreens. The Nobel Prize definitely did wonders for the reputation of our laboratory and our research, and we can see this from the influx of young researchers and students. Graphene remains a fascination. There could certainly be another Nobel Prize in our future, as several of the Radboud-researchers meet the Nobel Prize standard.'

Misha Katsnelson is Professor of Theoretical Physics. He worked closely with the two Nobel Prize winners and, as coauthor of several publications that contributed to the prize, he was also dubbed ‘the third Nobel Prize winner’. 

One of the winner’s PhD supervisors: 'Our lab has been influential'

'In his personal word of thanks in his PhD thesis, Novoselov referred to his years in Nijmegen as ‘the best years of my life’. For him, Nijmegen symbolised the first phase of life outside of Russia. After he obtained his PhD in 2004, he transferred to the University of Manchester, but he continued to return to our magnet lab to carry out experiments on graphene. New properties of graphene have been discovered here in Nijmegen through four experiments that are directly related to the Nobel Prize research; two of these were essential for this purpose. We’ve continued to work together for many years. As professors by special appointment, Geim and Novoselov continue to be affiliated with Radboud University to this very day. But I do feel that the assertion that this Nobel Prize would not have been awarded without Nijmegen is slightly overexaggerated. The researchers could have just as easily gone to Grenoble where there is a magnet lab that is just as powerful, where they could have discovered exactly the same thing.'

Jan Kees Maan has been working at Radboud University since 1975, during which time he worked as Professor of Experimental Physics. He was also Kostya Novoselov’s PhD supervisor and served as Director of the High Field Magnet Laboratory, which was founded in 2003, until his retirement in 2014.

The Graphene Lab Director: 'It’s wonderful to be this close to such an award'

'Our goal is to garner national recognition for the HFML-FELIX combination, and when politicians and policymakers visit it really helps that we’re able to direct their attention to the Nobel Prize that we won all those years ago. Mention of this extraordinary discovery can be found in every textbook and study book. The development of such a thin, powerful and stable material was a huge achievement, and it’s one that still reflects positively on our lab. From that moment on, our work carried even more weight in the world of high-field labs. We now have even more powerful magnets and a link to the laser facility. These days, HFML is linked to the FELIX free electron laser and they can be found under the same roof, which is a unique combination in global terms. We’ve already started testing new materials—such as phosphorus and silicon—for their special properties, which is something that had already been predicted by Geim and Novoselov.' 

Peter Christianen has been working at Radboud University since 1993, and has worked as Professor of Soft Condensed Matter and Nanomaterials in High Magnetic Fields since 2013. He has served as the Director of the HFML since 2018.

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This is an abbreviated version of a story from the Dutch book: 2023-1923. Honderd jaar Radboud Universiteit in 101 beelden (or 1923-2023. A century in 101 stories). This anniversary book will appear in May 2023 and will be published by Boom Publishers.

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