The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 was awarded to David J. Thouless of University of Washington and the other half to F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University during a press conference in Sweden. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded them “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”
In a press release, the Nobel Foundation states that the British-born winners revealed some secrets behind unusual properties of matter, thus opening the door to an unknown world . Their work has paved the way to seek new and exotic phases of matter, which could one day transform materials we use in science and electronics.
The three winners joined 200 other Nobel Prize laureates who have been awarded since 1901. They used topology, which is a branch of mathematics, for their discoveries.
Michael Kosterlitz, born 1942 in Aberdeen, UK, and David Thouless, born in 1934 in Bearsden, UK, disproved the theory that superconductivity or suprafluidity could not occur in thin layers in the 1970s. The two of them showed that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures. They also explained the mechanism of phase transition that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures.
In the 1980s, Duncan Haldane, born in 1951 in London, UK, discovered how we can use topological concepts to understand the different properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials. Overall, the Nobel Prize winners’ discoveries have been useful in studying condensed matter physics. Their findings could also be used to create new and improved generations of electronics and superconductors as well as super-fast quantum computers in the future.
The total amount the Nobel Prize winners will receive is 8 million Swedish krona or US$931,803. Half of the prize amount will be given to David Thouless while the other half will be shared between Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz.