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Alexei A. Abrikosov

(1928 - )

Alexei Alexeevich Abrikosov is a Jewish Russian theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2003.

Abrikosov was born on June 25, 1928, in Moscow, Russia. He graduated from the Moscow State University in 1948. In 1948-1965, he worked in the Institute for Physical Problems of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where he received his Ph.D. (in 1951) for the theory of thermal diffusion in plasmas and then the next degree, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (in 1955), for a thesis on quantum electrodynamics at high energies. From 1965-1988, he worked in the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics (USSR Academy of Sciences). He has been a professor of the Moscow State University since 1965, Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1987-1991, and since 1991 he has been academician of Russian Academy of Sciences.

In 1952, Abrikosov discovered the way in which magnetic flux can penetrate a superconductor. The phenomenon is known as type-II superconductivity, and the accompanying arrangement of magnetic flux lines is called the Abrikosov vortex lattice.

Since 1991, he works in the Materials Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, USA on contract basis. He is a citizen of both Russia and the United States.

Alexei Abrikosov was awarded the Lenin Prize (in 1966), USSR State Prize (in 1982), Fritz London Memorial Prize (in 1972). He was the co-recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics, with Vitaly Ginzburg and Anthony James Leggett. The following press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences describes the trio's work:

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to three physicists who have made decisive contributions concerning two phenomena in quantum physics: superconductivity and superfluidity. Superconducting material is used, for example, in magnetic resonance imaging for medical examinations and particle accelerators in physics. Knowledge about superfluid liquids can give us deeper insight into the ways in which matter behaves in its lowest and most ordered state.

At low temperatures (a few degrees above absolute zero) certain metals allow an electric current to pass without resistance. Such superconducting materials also have the property of being able to displace magnetic flows completely or partly. Those that displace magnetic flows completely are called type-I superconductors and a theory explaining them was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972. This theory, which is based on the fact that pairs of electrons are formed proved, however, to be inadequate for explaining superconductivity in the technically most important materials. These type-II superconductors allow superconductivity and magnetism to exist at the same time and remain superconductive in high magnetic fields. Alexei Abrikosov succeeded in explaining this phenomenon theoretically. His starting point was a theory that had been formulated for type-I superconductors by Vitaly Ginzburg and others, but which proved to be so comprehensive that it was also valid for the new type. Although these theories were formulated in the 1950s, they have gained renewed importance in the rapid development of materials with completely new properties. Materials can now be made superconductive at increasingly high temperatures and strong magnetic fields.

Liquid helium can become superfluid, that is, its viscosity vanishes at low temperatures. Atoms of the rare isotope 3He have to form pairs analogous with pairs of electrons in metallic superconductors. The decisive theory explaining how the atoms interact and are ordered in the superfluid state was formulated in the 1970s by Anthony Leggett. Recent studies show how this order passes into chaos or turbulence, which is one of the unsolved problems of classical physics.

Sources: Wikipedia,