A Nobel Laureate who co-created graphene has made another discovery that could turbocharge numerous futuristic applications, from smart contact lenses to rapid disease detection.

Konstantin Novoselov, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics, is among a group of scientists behind the breakthrough. The team announced today that they’ve unearthed unique properties in two unusual compounds: rhenium diselenide and rhenium disulfide — aka ReSe2 and ReS2.

The duo comes from the same family of 2D structures as graphene: the thinnest, strongest, and most thermally conductive material known to exist. 

ReSe2 and ReS2 also have special attributes. Both of them can create a novel form of light manipulation, which holds immense technological potential.

Like many scientific breakthroughs, these properties were discovered serendipitously. The scientists had been working with deeptech startup Xpanceo on a next generation of computing interfaces: smart contact lenses that create an infinite extended reality.

To fulfil this grand ambition, the lenses would need extraordinary optical performance. Xpanceo suspected that ReS2 and ReSe2 could provide the underlying power.  

In a laboratory in Dubai, the research team tested the hypothesis. They learned that the materials were more powerful than they had expected.

From lab to factory

Novoselov described the lab’s findings as “groundbreaking.”

Our team made an exciting discovery,” he told TNW via email. “The optical axes in these materials can move in different directions, even rotating more than 90 degrees for certain components.

“This means that by adjusting the wavelength, we can change the direction of light. This discovery has significant potential for various industries and applications, such as medicine, AI, and AR.”

A study paper on the research was just published today in Nature. But Xpanceo is already planning the commercial applications.