March 7, 2001
For further information, contact: Diane Greenberg, 631 344-2347, greenb@bnl.gov or Mona S. Rowe, 631 344-5056, mrowe@bnl.gov

Brookhaven Lab Scientist Shares Oliver E. Buckley Prize In Condensed Matter Physics with Scientist From Denmark

UPTON, NY - Victor Emery, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Alan H. Luther of NORDITA in Copenhagen, Denmark, have been chosen to receive the American Physical Society's (APS) 2001 Oliver E. Buckley Prize in Condensed Matter Physics.

The two scientists will share the $5,000 prize, sponsored by Lucent Technologies, which they will receive at the APS March 2001 meeting in Seattle, Washington. In addition, Emery and Luther will receive a citation that honors them for "their fundamental contribution to the theory of interacting electrons in one-dimension."

"Alan Luther and I did this work 25 years ago, and I am gratified that it is now recognized," Emery said.

Electrons are the particles that carry the current in an electrical conductor. They have two significant properties: a negative electrical charge and spin, which is analogous to the rotation of a top. Since all electrons have the same charge, they repel each other electrically.

As simple as this sounds, it is extremely difficult to describe the detailed behavior of a gas of interacting electrons. Emery and Luther found that they could obtain an exact mathematical description of such an interacting electron gas if they considered an idealized model with only one spatial dimension, as if all the electrons were lined up in a single row. Although the real world is three-dimensional, some materials act one-dimensionally, such as organic superconductors, chain-like molecular solids that lose all electrical resistance at temperatures close to absolute zero (-459.7 degrees F).

Working with their one-dimensional model, Emery and Luther discovered that the charge and spin excitations, or movements, of the electron gas act independently, as if each electron were split into fractions. Since previous theorists believed that charge and spin were collective and could never be separated, this was an amazing finding. Today, Emery and Luther's theory is believed to be of crucial importance for understanding high-temperature superconductors because they form one-dimensional systems called stripes.

In explaining his theory, Emery compared the flow of electrons to the flow of water, saying, "Most electrical conductors are like a flood, in which the current flows in the direction of voltage, and the voltage can go in any direction. In contrast, superconductors are like rivers of charge, and the charge flows in only two directions  - up and down river."

Born in England, Emery earned a B.Sc. in mathematics from the University of London in 1954, and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Manchester in 1957. Emery was a research associate in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, from 1957 to 1959, and a Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, from 1959 to 1960, later becoming a visiting assistant professor, from 1963 to 1964. From 1960 to 1963, he was also a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, England.

Emery started his career at Brookhaven in 1964 as an associate physicist. He received tenure at Brookhaven in 1967 and was promoted to senior physicist in 1972. He served as the associate chair of the Laboratory's Physics Department, 1981-1985.Emery is the second scientist from Brookhaven Lab to win the Buckley Prize. Physicist Gen Shirane won it in 1973.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies.  The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit  research  management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

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NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Victor Emery is a resident of Shoreham, NY.