The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics: Graphene and life on the Dirac Cone

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Speaker: Dr Tony Wright (Max Planck Institute, Stuttgart)
Date: 4th March 2011

Graphene physics is a lot of fun.  We’ve all been making graphene since we first picked up a pencil, to make a slightly larger sample the instructions are on youtube, graphene has been featured on the Big Bang Theory, and now it’s earned itself a Nobel Prize. For some, graphene theory is just as fun. The maths is simple but the principles are deep.

I will review the formulation of graphene’s massless Dirac Hamiltonian, hopefully demystifying the material’s unusual chiral, relativistic, effective theory. We will then look at some of the more striking consequences of this low energy theory, and see how experiments on graphene may allow one to simulate physics near black holes, or in 300 tesla magnetic fields, or to see the fine structure constant with the naked eye, all within an extremely simple theoretical framework.