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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Frozen matter wins Nobel
False-colour images showing the formation of the Bose-Einstein Condensate Jila
Measurements of the velocity of atoms show the condensate forming
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Two Americans and a German-born scientist share the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics for freezing matter into a new state that could aid in developing smaller and faster electronics.

Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman, of the US, and German-born Wolfgang Ketterle will share the 10 million kronor (650,000) prize.

The researchers were cited for creating a Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) and for their investigation of its fundamental properties. The BEC was predicted in 1924 but was first created in 1995. It occurs when atoms are cooled to almost absolute zero.

They then merge their identity, allowing a group of them to, in some respects, behave like one giant atom. The discovery could have many applications.

Mr Cornell, 39, is a physics professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a fellow of the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Colorado.

Mr Wieman, 50, is also a physics professor at Colorado, and a fellow of Jila. In addition, he is a senior scientist at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Mr Ketterle, 43, is John D MacArther Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

'Revolutionary applications'

The discovery of the Bose-Einstein condensate is "going to bring revolutionary applications in such fields as precision measurement and nanotechnology", according to the citation by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Nobel winners Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman Jila
Eric Cornell (left) and Carl Wieman
It adds that the research offers possibilities for studies of fundamental processes involving matter and energy, especially in precision measurements of motionless atoms.

"Revolutionary applications of BEC appear to be just round the corner," it added.

Working at Jila in Colorado, the scientists used a laser cooling technique (which was also awarded the 1997 Nobel Physics Prize) to cool atoms so that they formed a BEC on 5 June, 1995.

Alfred Nobel, the wealthy Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite who endowed the physics, chemistry, literature, medicine and peace prizes, left only vague guidelines for the selection committees.

In his will he said the prizes should be given to those who "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" and "shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics".

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