The 2010 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for the discovery of graphene. Both laureates work at Manchester University making it the second Nobel Prize this year to be awarded to work in the UK. The winners themselves are from Russia.
Graphene is a material one atom thick made of carbon atoms. Graphite which is often used in pencils or as a lubricant is actually just layers of graphene. separating the graphene and studying its properties started with the idea of using sticky tape to peel the layers off. It sounds like a simple idea but you can be sure that it was not an easy process otherwise other people would have done it first.
It turns out that graphene has extraordinary properties for conducting electricity and heat and is very string for its feeble thickness. Recently the world record for rotational speed of objects was taken by a flake of graphene that was spun using light to a million revolutions per second. Any other material would have broken apart but graphene has the potential to go even faster before it breaks.
You may be wondering why a discovery of a new type of molecular substance wins the physics prize instead of the chemistry prize. Me too. Perhaps it makes up for the fact that some recent chemistry prizes would have been better suited to the medicine Nobel.