Nobel Prize in Physics 2016

Nobel Prize in Physics 2016

Author: ChemViews

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2016 has been awarded with one half to David J. Thouless, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, and the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane, Princeton University, NJ, USA, and J. Michael Kosterlitz, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”.

The Laureates have used advanced mathematical methods (topological concepts) to explain strange phenomena in unusual phases or states of matter. These include superconductors, superfluids, and thin magnetic films.

Kosterlitz and Thouless have studied phenomena on surfaces or inside extremely thin layers that can be considered two-dimensional. They overturned the theory that superconductivity or suprafluidity could not occur in thin layers and demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also that a topological phase transition makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures. This phase transition is known as the KT transition (Kosterlitz-Thouless transition).

Haldane has studied matter that forms threads so thin that they can be considered one-dimensional. He discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials. He predicted that chains with integer and half-integer spins should be qualitatively different. This unexpected effect was later confirmed by experiments


David James Thouless, born 1934 in Bearsden, Scotland, earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. He was a professor of mathematical physics at Birmingham University, UK, and became a professor of physics at the University of Washington in 1980.

Thouless received many awards; among these are the Wolf Prize for Physics in 1990, the Paul Dirac Medal of the Institute of Physics in 1993, and the Lars Onsager Prize of the American Physical Society in 2000.


Frederick Duncan Michael Haldane, born 1951 in London, UK, obtained his Ph.D. at Cambridge University, UK, in 1978. Currently, he is Eugene Higgins Professor at Princeton University.

Haldane received many awards; among these are the Oliver E. Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society in 1993 and the Dirac Medal in 2012.


Michael Kosterlitz, born 1942 in Aberdeen, UK, received his B.A. and M.A. from Cambridge University, UK, and his D.Phil. from Oxford University, UK, in 1969. After postdoctoral positions, including stays at the University of Birmingham, UK, collaborating with David Thouless, and at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Birmingham, UK, in 1974, first as a lecturer and, later, as a reader. Since 1982, he is professor of physics at Brown University.

Kosterlitz received many awards; among these are the Maxwell Medal and Prize from the British Institute of Physics in 1981, the Lars Onsager Prize from the American Physical Society in 2000.


Publications of D. J. Thouless

  • J. M. Kosterlitz, D. J. Thouless, Ordering, metastability and phase transitions in two-dimensional systems, J. Phys. C: Solid State Phys. 1973, 6, 1181–1203. Link
  • D. Thouless, M. Kohmoto, M. Nightingale, M. den Nijs, Quantized Hall Conductance in a Two-Dimensional Periodic Potential, Phys. Rev. Lett. 1982, 49, 405. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.49.405
  • D. Thouless, Topological Quantum Numbers in Nonrelativistic Physics, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd, Singapore, 1998. Link
  • The quantum mechanics of many-body systems (Pure and applied physics series), Academic Press, 1972.


Publications of F. D. M. Haldane

  • F. D. M. Haldane, Continuum dynamics of the 1-D Heisenberg antiferromagnet: Identification with the O(3) nonlinear sigma model, Phys. Lett. A 1983, 93(9),464–468.
  • F. D. M. Haldane, Nonlinear Field Theory of Large-Spin Heisenberg Antiferromagnets: Semiclassically Quantized Solitons of the One-Dimensional Easy-Axis Néel State, Phys. Rev. Lett. 1983, 50 (15),1153. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.50.1153
  • F. D. M. Haldane, Model for a Quantum Hall Effect without Landau Levels: Condensed-Matter Realization of the “Parity Anomaly”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 1988, 61(18), 2015. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.61.2015


Publications of M. Kosterlitz

  • J. M. Kosterlitz, D. J. Thouless, Long range order and metastability in two dimensional solids and superfluids (Application of dislocation theory), J. Phys. C: Solid State Phys. 1972, 5(11), L124. DOI: 10.1088/0022-3719/5/11/002
  • J. M. Kosterlitz, The critical properties of the two-dimensional xy model, J. Phys. C: Solid State Phys. 1974, 7(6),1046. DOI: 10.1088/0022-3719/7/6/005


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