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For use with Chapter 25
Electromagnetic Induction

Nobel Prize for Quantum Fluids
Posted November 4, 1998

On October 12, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics to Robert B. Laughlin, Horst L. Stoermer, and Daniel C. Tsui. Their joint discovery showed that under the influence of a strong magnetic field at very low temperatures, electrons come together to form new types of particles known as quasiparticles.

Stoermer and Tsui discovered this behavior by sending electrons through very powerful magnetic fields at very low temperatures. Later, Laughlin offered the explanation for this phenomenon. As you know from the third right-hand rule, a current moving through a magnetic field produces a force in a specific direction. This force causes free electrons to come together and form quasiparticles. Each quasiparticle carries an electric charge less than that of an electron.

According to the citation for the prize, this research led to "yet another breakthrough in our understanding of quantum physics and to the development of new theoretical concepts of significance in many branches of modern physics." This discovery gives researchers new insight into how superconductors work and will also help scientists learn more about the basic structure of matter.

Laughlin went to college at the University of California at Berkeley and received his Ph.D. from M.I.T. Today, he is a professor at Stanford University where he researches superconductors. Stoermer went to school at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. After receiving a Ph.D., he began working at Bell Labs. Today, he is a professor at Columbia University. Tsui was born in China and earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He worked with Stoermer at Bell Labs until 1982 and now is a professor at Princeton University.

The three scientists also received other awards for their research and theories, including the Oliver E. Buckley Prize from the American Physical Society and the Medal of the Franklin Institute.

Use the Internet to research other winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics. You may want to start with the Web page for The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences , which is the organization that awards the Nobel Prize.

In what areas of physics are most of these major breakthroughs occurring? Also, research how physics was partially responsible for Authur Nobel's establishing the Nobel Prize.



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