Horst L. Störmer: 1998 - Physics
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Year & Category
1998 Nobel Prize in Physics (jointly with the Americans Robert B. Laughlin and Daniel C. Tsui)
“For their discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations”
At the time of the award he worked at
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
About his research
The invention of “modulation doping”
In 1977, at the very start of the many years he spent working for the famous Bell Laboratories, Horst Störmer and his colleagues invented the “modulation doping” technique. It made possible extremely low-noise and fast transistors that expedited the development, among other things, of mobile telephones. In 1981 Störmer and Tsui used the new technique for a spectacular experiment: they applied modulation doping to a gallium-arsenide/aluminium-gallium-arsenide (GaAs/AlGaAs) heterostructure and subjected it to both extreme cold and extreme magnetic fields. The electrons of the research material behaved in a surprising way: they split into particles with only a one-third charge.
The discovery of “quasiparticles”
Störmer and Tsui themselves were unable to explain this new phenomenon at the time, but then in 1983 Robert Laughlin presented the hypothesis that such extreme conditions make the electrons become a quantum fluid whose “quasiparticles” demonstrate this extremely unusual fractional charge. His theory was only confirmed directly by experiment shortly before the award of the Nobel Prize to Laughlin, Störmer and Tsui. Today, Horst Störmer remains committed to research into the quantum world world as a professor emeritus at New York’s Columbia University.