Yale Physics Professor Wins Prestigious Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize
Yale physics professor Nicholas Read and colleagues have received the 2002 Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize for their outstanding theoretical or experimental contributions to condensed matter physics.
“It’s great to have recognition for work that’s part of our general attempt to understand how matter behaves under different conditions,” said Read, professor of physics and applied physics at Yale. “This is one of the most prestigious awards in the field of condensed matter physics.”
The prize was endowed in 1952 by AT&T Bell Laboratories (now Lucent Technologies) as a way of recognizing outstanding scientific work. It is named in memory of Oliver E. Buckley, an influential president of Bell Labs. The other Buckley Prize recipients are Jainendra Jain of Pennsylvania State University and Robert Willett of Lucent Technologies. Eighteen Buckley Prize winners went on to win the Nobel Prize.
According to Yale physics chair Ramamurti Shankar, the theoretical condensed matter physics program at Yale has grown enormously over the last 15 years. “Nick’s receiving the ultimate prize in condensed matter physics is a richly deserved honor. Co-recipient Jainendra Jain, also began his work on this problem when he was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. The two departments are very proud to have been able to provide such a climate for research.”
Condensed matter physics underlies all modern electronics and led to the original invention of the transistor, which is the basis of semiconductor and computer technology. Read’s Buckley prize is for work published in a 1993 issue of Physical Review. His research focuses on quantum mechanics and semiconductors, which make up computer chips, the basis of all home electronics. Earlier studies have shown that it’s possible to fabricate a small device or chip, in which electrons move in two dimensions. “It’s as if they’re little billiard balls moving on a pool table,” Read said. “There are billions of electrons inside a typical chip and they’re moving around as if they’re on a table in two dimensions.”
Read said electrical measurements can be made on this two-dimensional system of electrons and this can be done at very low temperatures-close to absolute zero degrees Kelvin. When the chip is put into a magnetic field that is perpendicular to the two dimensions of the electrons, new states of matter can be observed.
“Like molecules of water that can condense as a liquid when cooled below the boiling point, the electrons in two dimensions in a magnetic field can enter a new liquid state of matter when the temperature is very low,” said Read. “Surprisingly, our new liquid state is similar to what happens to the electrons in metals.”
Douglas Stone, professor and chair of applied physics at Yale said, “It is a great honor for Yale and the departments of applied physics and physics that Nick has received this prize. He has been one of the really deep thinkers in this field of theoretical physics for some time and it is wonderful that his creativity has received this high recognition.”