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Carbon exists in various allotropic forms that are intensively investigated for their unusual and fascinating properties, from both fundamental and applied points of view. Among them, the sp2 (fullerenes, nanotubes and graphene) and sp3 (diamond) bonding configurations are of special interest since they have outstanding and, in some cases, unsurpassed properties compared to other materials. These properties include very high mechanical resistance, very high hardness, high resistance to radiation damage, high thermal conductivity, biocompatibility and superconductivity. Graphene, for example, possesses very uncommon electronic structure and a high carrier mobility, with charge carriers of zero mass moving at constant velocity, just like photons. All these characteristics have put carbon and carbon-related nanomaterials in the spotlight of science and technology research. The main challenges for future understanding include i) material growth, ii) fundamental properties, and iii) developing advanced applications.

The reviews in this Cluster Issue of Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics cover carbon nanoparticles and nanotubes, graphene, nano-diamond and films. They address the most current aspects and issues related to their fundamental and outstanding properties, and describe various classes of high-tech applications based on these promising materials. Future prospects, difficulties and challenges are addressed. Important issues include growth, morphology, atomic and electronic structure, transport properties, superconductivity, doping, nanochemistry using hydrogen, chemical and bio-sensors, and bio-imaging, allowing readers to evaluate this very interesting topic and draw perspectives for the future.

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Selected papers from this special issue of J. Phys D: Applied Physics

Current status of self-organized epitaxial graphene ribbons on the C face of 6H–SiC substrates


Epitaxial few-layer graphene: towards single crystal growth


Epitaxial graphene electronic structure and transport


The fascinating physics of carbon surfaces: first-principles study of hydrogen on C(0 0 1), C(1 1 1) and graphene


'Graphene-on-insulator' fabricated on atomically controlled solid surfaces

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