Some are calling this strong, flexible material—a film of carbon that’s only one atom wide—the biggest thing since plastic and a “wonder substance” that will “change the way we live.” Last year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to two scientists who conducted pioneering research on graphene, which is stronger than steel and a better conductor of electricity than any other material. Graphene has many potential applications.

Among other things, it will change the way we store data and electrical power. IBM researchers have produced a super-fast graphene-based transistor, and UC Berkeley scientists recently used graphene to create an optical modulator that could pave the way to devices that download at lightning speed (e.g., a high-def 3D movie would take just seconds). Still, mass commercialization of graphene likely won’t happen for some time. —Marian Berelowitz and Christine Miranda

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