Laughlin, Robert B
US physicist who with Chinese-born US physicist Daniel C Tsui and German physicist Horst L Störmer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1998 for the discovery that the application of an extremely powerful magnetic field on electrons can cause them to form a quantum fluid in which individual fractions of the electron's charge can be identified.
Laughlin provided the theoretical explanation to account for the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect, which had been discovered by Tsui and Störmer in 1982. He proposed that when electrons were exposed to temperatures close to absolute zero and immensely strong magnetic fields, they condense to form a type of quantum fluid, similar to what had already been reported for superconductors and liquid helium. He suggested that this is not the preferred state for electrons and that they combined in stages or steps with the ‘flux quanta’ of the magnetic field to form a composite particle or ‘quasiparticle’ that had no difficulty condensing. The fractional steps observed by Tsui and Störmer were associated with these quasiparticles, which were later called bosons. The discovery of this new type of quantum fluid has significant importance to researchers and can lead to a better understanding of the inner structure and nature of matter.
Laughlin was born in Visalia, California, USA. He received his PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979. He joined Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, in 1979 and carried out research there until 1981 and was a staff member at the Livermore National Laboratory in California from 1981 until1982. He became associate professor of physics at Stanford University in California in 1984, becoming a full professor in 1989.
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