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Graphene to the stars. The material with amazing properties has just had another added to the list. It seems these sheets of carbon one atom thick can turn light into action, maybe forming the basis of a fuel-free spacecraft.

Graphene was discovered accidentally by researchers playing with pencils and sticky tape. Its flat structure is very strong and conducts electricity and heat extremely well. Yongsheng Chen of Nankai University in Tianjin, China, and his colleagues have been investigating whether larger arrangements of carbon can retain some of these properties. Earlier this year they published details of a "graphene sponge", a squidgy material made by fusing crumpled sheets of graphene oxide.

While cutting graphene sponge with a laser, they noticed the light propelled the material forwards. That was odd, because while lasers have been used to shove single molecules aroundMovie Camera, the sponge was a few centimetres across so should be too large to move.

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