Oct. 9, 2003 – Vol. 23 No. 2

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    Nobel in Physics goes to Argonne scientist

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    President Randel congratulates Alexei Abrikosov, Distinguished Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, who shares the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics. The University, which operates Argonne for the U.S. Department of Energy, hosted his press conference Tuesday.
    An Argonne National Laboratory physicist will receive a share of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for devising a theory that describes the peculiar manner in which magnetic fields penetrate superconducting materials. Alexei Abrikosov, a Distinguished Scientist in Argonne’s Materials Science Division, will share the prize with Vitaly Ginzburg of the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow and Anthony Leggett of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    At a Tuesday, Oct. 7 press conference where Abrikosov greeted local media about his prize, Thomas Rosenbaum, Vice President for Research and for Argonne National Laboratory and the James Franck Professor in Physics and the College, said, “Alex Abrikosov is emblematic of the University’s and Argonne’s efforts to attract the absolute best people to our joint research environment. Alex’s insights and discoveries have launched 50 years of studies into the fundamental nature of superconductivity.”

    Kathryn Levin, Professor in Physics and the College, said of Abrikosov: “He’s one of my heroes. He’s done some wonderful work.”

    Superconductors are known both for their ability to carry current without resistance, and for expelling magnetism, the latter being the basis for applications like magnetically levitating trains. Abrikosov showed that under certain circumstances, some of the magnetism manages to find its way back into the superconductors via bubbles so small that they contain a tiny number of atoms.

    Alexei Abrikosov, Distinguished Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory.
    “These little bubbles are called Abrisokov vortices,” Levin said. They are nature’s way of balancing the energy of the magnetism with the energy of the superconductivity. “Magnetism can come back in, in a very localized way, without driving the superconductivity entirely away,” she said.

    Abrikosov showed that when the magnetic bubbles enter the superconducting material, they form a lattice, in much the same way that atoms do in the crystal framework of a solid, said Rosenbaum.

    “Once these vortices are in the superconductor, if they move, then it’s no longer useful,” Rosenbaum said.

    The University has managed Argonne National Laboratory for the U.S. Government since the laboratory was founded in 1946.