The King Faisal Foundation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, awarded the 2017 King Faisal International Prize for Science in the field of physics to Daniel Loss of Switzerland and Laurens W. Molenkamp of the Netherlands.
Daniel Loss is a pioneer in the theory of spin dynamics and spin coherence in quantum dots showing promise for practical applications in spin quantum computers. Loss’s research interests include many aspects of the theory of condensed matter systems with a particular focus on spin-dependent and phase-coherent phenomena (‘mesoscopics’) in semiconducting nanostructures and molecular magnets. A major portion of Loss’s current research involves the theory of spin dynamics, spin coherence, spintronics in two-dimensional electron gases, and spin-related phenomena in semiconducting quantum dots. Daniel Loss is a pioneer in the theory of spin dynamics and spin coherence in quantum dots showing promise for practical applications in spin quantum computers. The idea is to use the spin rather than the charge of electrons trapped in quantum dots as quantum bits. His work has inspired many important experimental programs. Loss’ contributions open the door to powerful spintronic quantum computers with exceptional speed and storage capacity. Daniel Loss has received several prizes including, Humboldt Research Prize (2005); Marcel Benoist Prize (2010); and Blaise Pascal Medal in Physics (2014).
Molenkamp has significantly contributed to the experimental field of spintronics. In 2007, he achieved the first experimental verification of the ‘quantum spin Hall effect’. Until then, it was only a theoretical prediction related to the ‘quantum Hall effect’ (a major discovery in solid-state physics from the 1980s). Unlike this effect, however, the quantum spin Hall effect occurs without an external magnetic field! Instead it uses a strong spin-orbit coupling. This fundamental difference has a potential for many applications. This has led to groundbreaking methods for creating and manipulating spin-polarised charge-carrier states in semiconductors, with the potential to develop magnetic storage devices. The discovery of the quantum spin Hall effect has provided a significant impetus to both basic and applied research. Topological insulators (a novel form of quantum matter) is one of the most active areas of global research in solid-state physics. It is to be noted that the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz for the topological insulators. Since 2014, it is speculated that Molenkamp (along with Charles Kane and Shoucheng Zhang) is a candidate for the Nobel Prize. Molenkamp has received numerous prizes, including the Oliver Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society (2012); Physics Frontiers Prize (2013); and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (2014).
The prizes are named after the third king of Saudi Arabia. The science subcategories cover a broad scope: physics; mathematics; chemistry; and biology on a rotation cycle of four years, which started in 1982. The prize consists of a certificate, a 200 gram gold medal, and a cash endowment of Saudi Riyal 750,000 (about US$200,000). The winners will receive their awards in a ceremony in Riyadh under the auspices of the King of Saudi Arabia. The next prize in physics will be awarded in 2021 (http://www.kfip.org/). Within three decades, the KFIP are ranked among the most prestigious awards. To date, there are 18 KFIP laureates who also received Nobel Prizes (mostly after the KFIP). A total of 56 scholars from 13 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Science.
- Guido Burkard and Daniel Loss, Spin qubits in solid-state structures, Europhysics News, 33 (5), 166-170 (2002). http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/epn:2002503.
- Markus König, Steffen Wiedmann, Christoph Brüne, Andreas Roth, Hartmut Buhmann, Laurens W Molenkamp, Xiao-Liang Qi, Shou-Cheng Zhang, Quantum spin Hall insulator state in HgTe quantum wells, Science, 318 (5851), 766-770 (2007). http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1148047 and https://arxiv.org/abs/0710.0582.