‘Quantum Explorer’ awarded top neutron prize

Wednesday 09 April 2008

Radu Coldea (right) with PhD students Elisa Wheeler and Lucian Pascut

Radu Coldea (right) with PhD students Elisa Wheeler and Lucian Pascut during a recent experiment at ISIS.
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Dr Radu Coldea of Bristol University has been awarded the B.T.M. Willis Prize for neutron scattering in recognition of his fundamental research into the quantum properties of novel materials.

The prize is awarded annually by the Neutron Scattering Group of the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The majority of Dr Coldea’s work uses the ISIS neutron source at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford. ISIS is a world leading facility for research into the physical and life sciences.

Dr Coldea explained the importance of ISIS to the scientific community: “Neutron scattering enables us to get results we can’t get with any other technique. It allows us to see up close the magnetic structure of materials and the energy dependence of the spin dynamics involved when billions of electrons act in unison”

Dr Andrew Taylor, ISIS Director congratulated Dr Coldea and emphasised the vital role that central facilities play in supporting university researchers: “Access to central facilities gives young researchers cutting-edge tools enabling them to make a rapid impact and underpinning the potential for innovation. This award recognises the important role that basic physics research continues to play in keeping British science at the forefront of the world.”

Dr Coldea’s research aims to understand the properties of materials at a fundamental microscopic level. The results could have a vast array of real life applications, such as the synthesis of new materials with improved electric and magnetic properties. This could lead to more efficient magnetic memories and faster electronic devices.

"Over the past ten years, Radu has imaginatively exploited neutron scattering in order to grasp the subtle electronic and magnetic properties of new materials,” said Professor Don Paul, Chairman of the Neutron Scattering Group.

“We are delighted to award Radu Coldea this year’s prize. The most important results of his work include the development of an experimental method combining neutron scattering and high magnetic fields to probe the interactions responsible for quantum behaviour and the discovery of a two-dimensional magnet with fractional spin-1/2 spin excitations.”

Dr Coldea talked about his research in the keynote lecture at the annual meeting of UK neutron and muon scientists NMUM2008 at the University of Nottingham on 18 March 2008.

The B.T.M. Willis prize is sponsored by the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry. It is named after Dr Terry Willis, one of the pioneers of the use of neutron scattering in the United Kingdom.

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