PHILADELPHIA -- Charles Kane and Eugene Mele of the University of Pennsylvania are among five scientists awarded the 2010 Europhysics Prize of the European Physical Society Condensed Matter Division for the theoretical prediction and experimental observation of the quantum spin Hall effect and topological insulators. Also honored were Hartmut Buhmann and Laurens Molenkamp of Würzburg University and Shoucheng Zhang of Stanford University.
Research on the quantum spin Hall effect and a deeper understanding of the topological description of the quantum Hall state have been crucial to the development of the notion of topological insulators.
The key breakthrough was the 2005 work by Kane and Mele.
Taking a 2D hexagonal array of carbon atoms as an example, they predicted a class of insulators having robust gapless edge states for which the energy depends linearly on the momentum, giving rise to cone-shaped surfaces of constant energy and showing a remarkable pattern of electron spins.