Abi links to interesting articles about the new Nobel prize winners in physics Physics Nobel trivia. Among them is the NY Times article Physics Nobel Honors Work on Ultra-Thin Carbon. Excerpts:
"Dr. Geim and Dr. Novoselov first succeeded in creating flakes of graphene by peeling them off piles of graphite — the material that is in a pencil lead — using Scotch tape. .... The work on graphene arose from the pair’s desire to investigate the electrical properties of graphite. To do that, they needed very thin pieces, which they first tried to produce by filing down graphite crystals, with no luck. Then a technician showed them how graphite was cleaned before being observed in a scanning tunneling microscope by peeling layers off with Scotch tape.
The scientists placed a flake of graphite on some tape and then by folding the tape over it again and again, gradually cleaved it thinner and thinner until it was only one atom thick.
The Scotch tape technique is still used, although the Manchester researchers have switched to a different tape. Dr. Geim once described the process as “very nonboffinlike” — using British slang for a research scientist — and an example of how you could do great experiments even if you did not have the resources of Harvard or Cambridge behind you. “You can still do something amazing,” he said. "
P.S. A comment in Nanopolitan links to this 2006 biographical sketch of Geim:
Renaissance scientist with fund of ideas