(CNN) Three British physicists working at US universities have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for revealing the secrets of exotic matter.
The 8 million Swedish Krona prize (more than US $931,000) was divided between the three laureates according to their contributions — one half awarded to David Thouless of the University of Washington, and the other half jointly to Duncan Haldane of Princeton University and Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University.
“This year’s laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states,” said the Nobel Foundation in a statement Tuesday.
What was their discovery?
In the early 1970s, Kosterlitz and Thouless overturned the then-current theory that superconductivity could not occur in extremely 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,” explained the Foundation.
Around a decade later, Haldane also studied matter that forms threads so thin they can be considered one-dimensional.
A member of the Nobel committee explained the process in a video, using a cinnamon bun, a bagel and a pretzel:
Why is it important?
The physicists’ pioneering research could be used in the next generation of electronics and superconductors — or even quantum computers, as Nobel Committee member Thors Hans Hansson explained.
“People are working very hard in the labs to get new materials which have interesting properties of conducting electricity,” he said.
“And the dream is that this can be used for carrying information.”