Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 was awarded to the three British physicists who worked in USA. They are David Thouless of Washington University, Duncan Haldane of Princeton University and John Kosterlitz from Brown University. Their contribution is in the field of theoretical physics that have revealed the existence of the exotic phase transition two-dimensional systems. This study in the realm of Condensed Matter Theoretical Physics.
Phase transitions as understood are ubiquitous phenomena. The most common example is the melting of ice into water due to heating, and evaporation of water into steam. This type of phase transition is commonly known as the first-order phase tranition, which can be observed macroscopically where there is a changes in the structure of matter. Kosterlitz and Thouless shows another type phase transition occurring microscopic scale, such as those experienced by a magnetic material.
Magnetic material at high temperatures would lose its magnetism, and when cooled down to a certain temperature will spontaneously become a magnet. The phenomenon of spontaneous magnetization successfully explained by a simple mathematical model, Ising model, according name of the inventor, Ernest Ising, is a pioneering research in the study of Kosterlitz-Thouless (KT) transition. If Ising considered conventional magnetic system, KT examined quasi magnetic material with phase transition between quasi-regular and paramagnetic.
To experience the exotic KT transition, interacting magnetic moments must have a planar symmetry, for example O(2) or C (n), and reside a two-dimensional structure. This phenomenon is in fact present in a number of physical systems, such as superconductivity and superfluid, and a number of other systems such as a thin layer and a chain of atoms and molecules. The interesting thing is that this subject was theoretically studied by KT in the mid 70s, which is then followed by Duncan Haldane studying a model of quantum system. The study is now known to apply in the invention of a number of advanced material, including in the development of quantum computers and advanced sensors for various applications.
As an appreciation and service to physics community, Physisical Review Journals, published by the American Physical Society had made the Nobels journals open, with the following links: