Contact: Bob Nelson
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For immediate release
October 13, 1998

Columbia Physicist Horst Stormer Shares Nobel For Work on Bizarre Behavior of Electrons


Particles Gain Partial Charge, Travel As Waves, Form Quantum Dots

	Horst Stormer, professor of physics and applied physics at Columbia 
University and adjunct director of physical sciences Bell Laboratories' Physical 
Science Division, a unit of Lucent Technologies Corp. in Murray Hill, N.J., will 
share the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of bizarre motions of 
electrons in thin layers of semiconductors.
	Professor Stormer, a resident of Manhattan who is teaching an 
undergraduate course this term at Columbia, was honored with Daniel Tsui, a 
professor at Princeton University, for discovering a phenomenon known as the 
fractional quantum Hall effect, and with Robert B. Laughlin, a professor at 
Stanford University, for devising a theoretical explanation of this phenomenon.
	"I had no idea this was coming," Professor Stormer said at a Nobel 
reception held Oct. 13 in the Faculty Room of Columbia's Low Memorial Library.  
"Some people have premonitions; I had none."
	He added:  "One German radio reporter asked me how it feels to become 
part of the same lineage as Einstein and Heisenberg.  Let's not joke - I am not in 
the same league as Einstein and Heisenberg.
	"While I made this discovery at Lucent, I came to Columbia to help bridge 
the differences between industry and academia.  I think we are succeeding."
	The research may eventually help create improved electronic devices such
as computer chips or optoelectronic devices such as solid-state lasers.  These 
structures, only a few hundred atoms across, are of immense technological 
importance because they will be capable of faster switching speeds and can be 
used to construct higher-density computer memories than is now possible.
	The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited the trio "for their discovery of 
a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations."  They will 
share the $978,000 prize to be presented Dec. 10 in Stockholm.
	Professor Stormer holds joint appointments in Columbia's Graduate School 
of Arts and Sciences and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied 
Science.  The award marks the 59th Nobel to a former or current Columbia faculty 
member or alumnus, and the fourth at the Fu Foundation School.  Five Nobelists 
are currently on Columbia's faculty, four of them in physics.
	"Everyone at Columbia is of course thrilled to hear that the Nobel committee 
has recognized Horst Stormer's magnificent achievement," said George Rupp, 
president of the University.  "It is certainly satisfying that such elegant basic 
science receives the acclaim it deserves."
	Professors Stormer and Tsui discovered the fractional quantum Hall effect 
in 1982 while both were Bell Laboratories researchers.  The phenomenon occurs 
in a thin sheet of electrons inside a semiconductor, not unlike the electron sheet 
in a modern-day transistor.  At temperatures that approach absolute zero and in 
strong magnetic fields, the electron appears to break up into three identical 
pieces, each with a fractional charge.  However, this perplexing observation takes 
place not because the electron disintegrates, but because the motion of many 
electrons together generate unusual particle-like behavior in their midst.
	Such electrons can be made to travel as waves in quantum wires, and can 
be bound into new, artificial atoms called quantum dots.  They can even enter 
superfluid states where they seem to move without friction or resistance.
	Within a year, Professor Laughlin, then also at Bell Labs, explained their 
result, showing that electrons in powerful magnetic fields can condense to form 
quantum fluids, similar to the superfluids that occur in superconductors and 
liquid helium.  The discovery has opened up a new realm of scientific inquiry, the 
Nobel committee said, because "events in a drop of quantum fluid can afford more 
profound insights into the inner structure and dynamics of matter."
	Under these special conditions of low temperature and intense magnetic 
fields, current-carrying electrons do not move in all three spatial dimensions 
throughout the material but are confined to an extremely thin two-dimensional 
layer or one-dimensional line only a few hundred atoms thick.  Electrons can be 
so confined by building up the semiconductor material in layers in such a way 
that one layer is different from the rest.  This special layer provides a small 
attraction to the electrons as they move through the material.  As the temperature
is lowered, moving electrons have less energy and tend to occupy only quantum 
states located very near the special layer, finally abandoning all other quantum 
states at temperatures near absolute zero.
	Electrons forced to move in such confined structures display new, 
unexpected behavior, especially if a very intense magnetic field is applied.  For 
example, such confined electrons display a new sort of electrical resistance that is 
precisely quantized into steps.  This strange behavior implies that the 
fundamental current carriers are no longer individual electrons but instead 
electrons that as a group carry precisely a third or a fifth of the normal electronic 
charge.  Professor Stormer, along with Professor Tsui at Princeton and Arthur 
Gossard of the University of California, Santa Barbara, were the first to observe 
this effect, called the fractional quantum Hall effect.
	"Understanding these bizarre properties has been a major success of 
condensed matter theory during the past decade," Professor Stormer said, prior to 
learning news of the Nobel Prize.  "The fractional quantum Hall effect is very 
important for our understanding of many-particle physics, introducing as it does 
new ideas that may well have an important future effect on other areas of science.
	"While these new phenomena may not directly affect device technology, the 
structures we use in these experiments are essentially the same as those being 
used in high-performance current amplifiers."
	For example, the same two-dimensional system in which Professor 
Stūrmer has unraveled this counterintuitive behavior of electrons is the central 
component of a metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor, or MOSFET, in 
which an input signal can control electrical current through the same two-
dimensional electron system, called a channel; the device is central to 
thesemiconductor industry.  And the identical materials that are being used in 
Professor Stormer's studies are also used to make high electron mobility 
transistors, or HEMTs.  Such transistors are used as highly-sensitive gatekeepers 
in many of the new high-frequency, 2-gigahertz cellular phones.
	More recently, he has turned to the investigation of yet lower-dimensional 
systems, such as quantum wires embedded in semiconductor materials, where 
electrons are free to move only back and forth along a line.  In such wires,
electrons reveal their wave-like nature and travel like light waves down a glass
fiber.  Physicists believe that by adding mirrors to the ends of the wires, the 
quantum states of the electrons can be excited, creating a new, very narrow-
frequency type of laser.  They are also studying quantum dots, fully confined, zero-
dimensional systems that act like artificial atoms.
	Professor Stūrmer, born in Frankfurt in 1949, earned his undergraduate 
and master's degrees in physics from Goethe University in Frankfurt and a Ph.D. 
in physics from the University of Stuttgart in 1977.  He conducted his thesis 
research at the Max-Planck-Institut's High Field Magnet Laboratory in Grenoble, 
France.  He joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., became head of 
electronic and optical properties of solid research in 1983, and was appointed 
director of physical sciences in 1992.  He accepted a joint appointment in 
Columbia's Department of Physics and the Department of Applied Physics and 
Applied Mathematics effective January 1.
	Professor Stormer won the American Physical Society's prestigious Oliver 
E. Buckley Prize in Condensed Matter Physics in 1984.  He was awarded the 
Franklin Institute Medal in Physics with Professors Tsui and Laughlin, for the 
same work that won the Nobel, on April 30 in Philadelphia.  He is a fellow of the 
American Physical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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