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The world’s thinnest, strongest material — graphene – was first isolated a decade ago, but the single-atom-thick sheet of carbon is still turning up surprises.

Thought to be an impermeable barrier, research reported in Nature1 this week shows that graphene in fact allows protons to pass through it, opening up the possibility of its use as an ultrathin membrane in fuel cells. Meanwhile, a separate report in Science2 today reveals that graphene outperforms both steel and a composite Kevlar armour in its ability to withstand 'bullets'.

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