Nobel Physics Prize Awarded to Researchers in Condensed Matter Physics

The Nobel Prize Committee has awarded the 2016 prize in Physics to British scientists working in the field of condensed matter physics, Michael Kosterlitz (Brown University), David Thouless (University of Washington) and Duncan Haldane (Princeton University). The Nobel award is “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”

From the press release announcing the award from the Nobel Committee:

“They revealed the secrets of exotic matter
This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics.

The three Laureates’ use of topological concepts in physics was decisive for their discoveries. Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that only change step-wise. Using topology as a tool, they were able to astound the experts. In the early 1970s, Michael Kosterlitz and David Thouless overturned the then current theory that superconductivity or suprafluidity could not occur in thin layers. They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures.

In the 1980s, Thouless was able to explain a previous experiment with very thin electrically conducting layers in which conductance was precisely measured as integer steps. He showed that these integers were topological in their nature. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials.

We now know of many topological phases, not only in thin layers and threads, but also in ordinary three-dimensional materials. Over the last decade, this area has boosted frontline research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers. Current research is revealing the secrets of matter in the exotic worlds discovered by this year’s Nobel Laureates.”

In discussing the practical implication of his research at a news conference at Princeton University, Dr. Haldane commented “I think the main message is that we’re going to find all kinds of great things that applying these new quantum mechanical principles to matter will allow us to do, and we don’t really know what those are.”

The field of LENR is often considered to belong in the realm of condensed matter physics, so while this Nobel award itself is not directly connected to LENR, it may have some connections. The recently released paper from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency “Investigation of Nano-Nuclear Reactions in Condensed Matter” by Mosier-Boss, Forsely, and McDaniel reported that superconductivity was found to occur in palladium-deuterium LENR experimental systems.

So while the news of this prize has not given any attention to LENR, it may be that LENR is one field that the work of these Nobel laureates has applications for.