2016年10月04日 19:48 発信地：ストックホルム/スウェーデン
【10月4日 AFP】（更新、写真追加）スウェーデン王立科学アカデミー（Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences）は4日、2016年のノーベル物理学賞（Nobel Prize in Physics）を、エキゾチック物質の秘密を解明した業績により、英国出身のデビッド・J・サウレス （David J. Thouless）氏と、同じく英国のF・ダンカン・M・ホールデン（F. Duncan M. Haldane）、J・マイケル・コステリッツ（J. Michael Kosterlitz）両氏の2組に授与すると発表した。
Press Release: The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016
4 October 2016
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 with one half to
David J. Thouless
University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
and the other half to
F. Duncan M. Haldane
Princeton University, NJ, USA
J. Michael Kosterlitz
Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
”for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”
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.
Read more about this year's prize
Popular Science Background
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All illustrations: Copyright © Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
David J. Thouless, born 1934 in Bearsden, UK. Ph.D. 1958 from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.
F. Duncan M. Haldane, born 1951 in London, UK. Ph.D. 1978 from Cambridge University, UK. Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University, NJ, USA.
J. Michael Kosterlitz, born 1942 in Aberdeen, UK. Ph.D. 1969 from Oxford University, UK. Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.
Prize amount: 8 million Swedish krona, with one half to David Thouless and the other half to be shared between Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz.
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THE NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS 2016
POPULAR SCIENCE BACKGROUND
Nobel Prize® is a registered trademark of the Nobel Foundation.
Strange phenomena in matter’s flatlands
This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter exists in strange states. The
Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 is awarded with one half to David J. Thouless, University of Washington, Seattle,
and the other half to F. Duncan M. Haldane, Princeton University, and J. Michael Kosterlitz, Brown University,
Providence. Their discoveries have brought about breakthroughs in the theoretical understanding of
matter’s mysteries and created new perspectives on the development of innovative materials.
David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz have used advanced mathematical methods
to explain strange phenomena in unusual phases (or states) of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids
or thin magnetic films. Kosterlitz and Thouless have studied phenomena that arise in a flat
world – on surfaces or inside extremely thin layers that can be considered two-dimensional, compared
to the three dimensions (length, width and height) with which reality is usually described. Haldane
has also studied matter that forms threads so thin they can be considered one-dimensional.
The physics that takes place in the flatlands is very different
to that we recognise in the world around us. Even
if very thinly distributed matter consists of millions of
atoms, and even if each atom’s behaviour can be explained
using quantum physics, atoms display completely
different properties when lots of them come together.
New collective phenomena are being continually discovered
in these flatlands, and condensed matter physics is
now one of the most vibrant fields in physics.
The three Laureates’ use of topological concepts in
physics was decisive for their discoveries. Topology is
a branch of mathematics that describes properties that
change step-wise. With modern topology as a tool, this
year’s Laureates presented surprising results, which have
opened up new fields of research and led to the creation
of new and important concepts within several areas of
Quantum physics becomes visible in the cold
Deep down, all matter is governed by the laws of
quantum physics. Gases, liquids and solids are the usual
phases of matter, in which quantum effects are often
hidden by random atomic movements. But in extreme
cold, close to absolute zero (–273 degrees Celsius)
matter assumes strange new phases and behaves in
unexpected ways. Quantum physics, which otherwise
only works in the micro-scale world, suddenly becomes
visible (fig. 1).
Fig. 1 Phases of matter. The most common phases are gas,
liquid and solid matter. However, in extremely high or low
temperatures matter assumes other, more exotic states.
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Ordinary phases of matter also transition between each other when the temperature changes. For
example, such a phase transition occurs when ice, which consists of well-ordered crystals, is heated
and melts into water, a more chaotic phase of matter. When we look at matter’s little known flatlands,
we find material phases that have not yet been fully explored.
Strange things can happen in the cold. For example, the resistance otherwise encountered by all
moving particles suddenly ceases. This is the case when electrical current flows with no resistance in
a superconductor, or when a vortex in a superfluid spins forever without slowing down.
The first person to systematically study superfluids was the Russian Pyotr Kapitsa, in the 1930s. He
cooled helium-4, which is found in air, to –271 degrees Celsius and made it crawl up the sides of its
holder. In other words, it behaved just as strangely as a superfluid should when viscosity has completely
vanished. Kapitsa was rewarded with the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics, and since then several
types of superfluids have been created in the laboratory. Superfluid helium, thin films of superconductors,
thin layers of magnetic materials and electrically conductive nanothreads are a few of the
many new material phases that are now being intensively studied.
Vortex pairs provided the solution
Researchers long believed that thermal fluctuations destroy all order in matter in a flat, two-dimensional
world, even at absolute zero. If there are no ordered phases, there can be no phase transitions.
But in the early 1970s, David Thouless and Michael Kosterlitz met in Birmingham, Great Britain, and
they challenged the then current theory. Together, they took on the problem of phase transitions in the
flatlands (the former out of curiosity, the latter out of ignorance, they themselves claim). This cooperation
resulted in an entirely new understanding of phase transitions, which is regarded as one of the
twentieth century’s most important discoveries in the theory of condensed matter physics. It is called
the KT transition (Kosterlitz-Thouless transition) or the BKT transition, where the B is for Vadim
Berezinskii, a now deceased theoretical physicist from Moscow who had presented similar ideas.
The topological phase transition is not an ordinary phase transition, like that between ice and water.
The leading role in a topological transition is played by small vortices in the flat material. At low
temperatures they form tight pairs. When the temperature rises, a phase transition takes place: the
vortices suddenly move away from each other and sail off in the material on their own (fig. 2).
Tight pair of vortices Single vortices
LOWER TEMPERATURE TOPOLOGICAL PHASE TRANSITION HIGHER TEMPERATURE
Fig. 2 Phase transition. This occurs when phases of matter transition between each other, such as when ice melts and becomes
water. Using topology, Kosterlitz and Thouless described a topological phase transition in a thin layer of very cold matter. In the cold,
vortex pairs form and then suddenly separate at the temperature of the phase transition. This was one of the twentieth century’s
most important discoveries in the physics of condensed matter.
THE NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS 2016 THE ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES HTTP 3(5) ://KVA.SE
The wonderful thing about this theory is that it can be used for different types of materials in low
dimensions – the KT transition is universal. It has become a useful tool, one that is not only applied
in the world of condensed matter, but also in other areas of physics, such as atomic physics or statistical
mechanics. The theory behind the KT transition has also been developed by both its originators and
others, and also confirmed experimentally.
The mysterious quantum leaps
Experimental developments eventually brought about a number of new states of matter that
required explanation. In the 1980s, both David Thouless and Duncan Haldane presented groundbreaking
new theoretical work that challenged previous theories, of which one was the quantum
mechanical theory for determining which materials conduct electricity. This had initially been developed
in the 1930s and, a few decades later, this area of physics was considered to be well understood.
It was therefore a great surprise when, in 1983, David Thouless proved that the previous picture was
incomplete and, at low temperatures and in strong magnetic fields, a new type of theory was necessary,
one where topological concepts were vital. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane also arrived at a
similar, and similarly unexpected, conclusion while analysing magnetic atomic chains. Their work has
been instrumental in the subsequent dramatic developments to the theory of new phases of matter.
The mysterious phenomenon that David Thouless described theoretically, using topology, is the
quantum Hall effect. This was discovered in 1980 by the German physicist Klaus von Klitzing, who
was rewarded with the Nobel Prize in 1985. He studied a thin conducting layer between two semiconductors,
where the electrons were cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero and subjected to a
strong magnetic field.
In physics, it is not uncommon for drastic things to happen when the temperature is lowered; for
example, many materials become magnetic. This happens because all the small atomic magnets in
the material suddenly point in the same direction, giving rise to a strong magnetic field, which can
also be measured.
However, the quantum Hall effect is more difficult to understand; the electrical conductance in
the layer appears to only be able to assume particular values, which are also extremely precise,
something that is unusual in physics. Measurements provide precisely the same results even if the
temperature, magnetic field or the amount of impurities in the semiconductor vary. When the magnetic
field changes enough, the conductance of the layer also changes, but only in steps; reducing the
strength of the magnetic field makes electrical conductance first exactly twice as big, then it triples,
quadruples, and so on. These integer steps could not be explained by the physics known at the time,
but David Thouless found the solution to this riddle using topology.
Answered by topology
Topology describes the properties that remain intact when an object is stretched, twisted or deformed,
but not if it is torn apart. Topologically, a sphere and a bowl belong to the same category,
because a spherical lump of clay can be transformed into a bowl. However, a bagel with a hole in the
middle and a coffee cup with a hole in the handle belong to another category; they can also be remodelled
to form each other’s shapes. Topological objects can thus contain one hole, or two, or three, or
four… but this number has to be an integer. This turned out to be useful in describing the electrical
conductance found in the quantum Hall effect, which only changes in steps that are exact multiples
of an integer (fig. 3).
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In the quantum Hall effect, electrons move relatively freely in the layer between the semi-conductors
and form something called a topological quantum fluid. In the same way as new properties
often appear when many particles come together, electrons in the topological quantum fluid also
display surprising characteristics. Just as it can’t be ascertained whether there is a hole in a coffee cup
by only looking at a small part of it, it is impossible to determine whether electrons have formed a
topological quantum fluid if you only observe what is happening to some of them. However, conductance
describes the electrons’ collective motion and, because of topology, it varies in steps; it is
quantised. Another characteristic of the topological quantum fluid is that its borders have unusual
properties. These were predicted by the theory and were later confirmed experimentally.
Another milestone occurred in 1988, when Duncan Haldane discovered that topological quantum
fluids, like the one in the quantum Hall effect, can form in thin semiconductor layers even when
there is no magnetic field. He said he’d never dreamed of his theoretical model being realised experimentally
but, as recently as 2014, this model was validated in an experiment using atoms that were
cooled to almost absolute zero.
New topological materials in the pipeline
In much earlier work, from 1982, Duncan Haldane made a prediction that amazed even the experts in
the field. In theoretical studies of chains of magnetic atoms that occur in some materials, he discovered
that the chains had fundamentally different properties depending on the character of the atomic
magnets. In quantum physics there are two types of atomic magnets, odd and even. Haldane demonstrated
that a chain formed of even magnets is topological, while a chain of odd magnets is not. Like
the topological quantum fluid, it is not possible to determine whether an atomic chain is topological
or not by simply investigating a small part of it. And, just as in the case of the quantum fluid, the
topological properties reveal themselves at the edges. Here, this is at the ends of the chain, because
the quantum property known as spin halves at the ends of a topological chain.
Initially, no one believed Haldane’s reasoning about atomic chains; researchers were convinced that
they already completely understood them. But it turned out that Haldane had discovered the first
example of a new type of topological material, which is now a lively field of research in condensed
Fig 3. Topology. This branch of mathematics is interested in properties that change step-wise, like the number of holes in the above
objects. Topology was the key to the Nobel Laureates’ discoveries, and it explains why electrical conductivity inside thin layers changes
in integer steps.
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Both quantum Hall fluids and even magnetic atomic chains are included in this new group of topological
states. Later, researchers discovered several other unexpected topological states of matter, not
only in chains and thin border layers, but also in ordinary three-dimensional materials.
Topological insulators, topological superconductors and topological metals are now being talked
about. These are examples of areas which, over the last decade, have defined frontline research in condensed
matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials will be useful for new
generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers. Current research is
now revealing the secrets of matter in the exotic flatlands discovered by this year’s Nobel Laureates.
LINKS AND FURTHER READING
Additional information on this year’s prizes, including a scientific background in English, is available on
the website of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, http://kva.se, and at http://nobelprize.org. There,
and at http://kvatv.se, you can watch video footage of the press conferences, the Nobel Lectures and more.
Information on exhibitions and activities related to the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences is
available at www.nobelmuseum.se.
Science Editors: Thors Hans Hansson, David Haviland and Gunnar Ingelman, the Nobel Committee for Physics
Translation: Clare Barnes
Illustrationer: ©Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Editor: Fredrik All
©The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
DAVID J. THOULESS
Born 1934 in Bearsden, UK. Ph.D.
1958 from Cornell University, Ithaca,
NY, USA. Emeritus Professor at
University of Washington, Seattle,
F. DUNCAN M. HALDANE and
Born 1951 in London, UK. Ph.D.
1978 from Cambridge University,
UK. Eugene Higgins Professor of
Physics at Princeton University, NJ,
J. MICHAEL KOSTERLITZ
Born 1942 in Aberdeen, UK. Ph.D.
1969 from Oxford University, UK.
Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of
Physics at Brown University, Providence,
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize
in Physics 2016
with one half to and the other half to
”for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”
Scientific Background on the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016
topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter
compiled by the Class for Physics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
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