Today's Nobel winners are Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two Russian physicists working at the University of Manchester. They created and then studied graphene, a miracle material made of carbon that will probably be changing all of our lives in the coming years.
Graphene, made of hexagonally arranged carbon atoms, is one atom thick and totally transparent (it's similar to a Buckyball). Yet it is so strong that if you stretched a sheet of it over the top of a coffee cup, it could support the weight of a truck, even if all the weight of that truck was concentrated in a point the diameter of the tip of a pencil. It is both the thinnest and strongest material in the world. As you can imagine, the practical applications of such a material are nearly endless, as The New York Times writes:
Physicists say that eventually it could rival silicon as a basis for computer chips, serve as a sensitive pollution-monitoring material, improve flat screen televisions, and enable the creation of new materials and novel tests of quantum weirdness, among other things.
But that seems to just be scratching the surface of what you could do with a material that is both superlatively thin and superlatively strong.
This profile of the pair in the Times is well worth reading, as they seem to be two very fun and interesting scientists. In fact, Dr. Geim is also a former winner of an Ig Nobel, having levitated a frog in a magnetic field.