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CIFAR’s quantum physicist Louis Taillefer first Canadian to win Simon Prize

by CIFAR Jan 3 / 17
Canadian quantum physicist Louis Taillefer, Director of CIFAR’s Quantum Materials program, has been named the 2017 Simon Memorial Prize winner. He is the first Canadian to receive the prize since it was established in 1957.

The international prize is awarded every three years by the Institute of Physics for distinguished work in experimental or theoretical low temperature physics. Taillefer was selected for his “pioneering contributions to the field of unconventional superconductivity.” Superconductors are materials that have the ability to conduct electricity without any loss of energy. Known superconductors function under extreme temperatures; a superconductor that worked at room temperature would have countless applications, from energy efficiency to transportation.

“This is a much deserved honour for Louis Taillefer. This award recognizes both the landmark contributions he has made to our understanding of quantum materials and to his international leadership as the director of CIFAR’s program in Quantum Materials,” said Dr. Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research).

As the Director of CIFAR’s Quantum Materials program and a professor at the Université de Sherbrooke, Taillefer is renowned for several contributions to the field using a number of powerful experimental techniques. On Feb. 27, 2007, his team, which included several CIFAR members, had their breakthrough observation of “quantum oscillations” in a copper-oxide superconductor. Quantum oscillations are the clearest signature of electrons in a metal and the discovery caused a paradigm shift in how scientists view electron behaviour in these materials. In 2016, the same team of CIFAR members identified a key signature of the quantum phase transition that underpins why copper oxides are the strongest known superconductors (see article in Quanta Magazine).

“Exactly 10 years ago we made a breakthrough I never imagined was possible,” Taillefer recalled. “Now, I can’t wait to see what baffling discoveries the next 10 years will bring.”
Several previous award winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, including David M. Lee, Robert C. Richardson, Douglas Osheroff, Peter Kapitsa and Anthony James Leggett.

The presentation of the Simon Memorial Prize will take place at the 28th International Conference on Low Temperature Physics, to be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, from 9-16 August 2017.