Graphene is an amazing material, an atom-thick layer of carbon atoms that has properties which are blowing away previous transistors, semiconductors, and other materials in terms of hardness, electrical current speed, and so on. In the growing field of nanotechnology, this is the miracle material, and everyone is trying to figure out how best to leverage it for industrial purposes.
However, my definition article might be in need of some updating, because it looks like, just maybe, graphene isn't as hard to make as once believed. The folks over at Scientific American have presented a great "do it yourself" procedure on how to get a sheet of graphene from ordinary pencil lead (graphite), using just some clear tape (and a silicon wafer).
The procedure is extremely simple - just fold the tape over on a piece of graphite and it will cleave apart smoothly, and if you do it enough you'll eventually end up with an atom-thick layer of graphene.
As the Scientific American piece demonstrates, it is hard to get a really clean outcome ... and certainly this sort of procedure would be hard-pressed to create the substance on the level needed for industrial applications, or even rudimentary research purposes.
But for a high school student's science experiment? For that, I think this has some good potential. And if anyone out there tries this, and wants to e-mail me some pictures, I'd be happy to post them to our website as a demonstration of what home-made graphene really looks like.