Among those expressing enthusiasm for graphene is the U.S. military. In late 2011, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md., signed an agreement to study graphene’s properties with Northeastern University in Boston. The agreement is mainly funded by a $300,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa.

The university plans to use graphene to design better night-vision goggles and other such detectors, says Srinivas Sridhar, a Northeastern physics professor. A Darpa representative, in an email, confirmed the project.