K. Alexander Müller
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1987
Born: 20 April 1927, Basel, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, Rüschlikon, Switzerland
Prize motivation: "for their important break-through in the discovery of superconductivity in ceramic materials."
Prize share: 1/2
When certain metals are cooled to extremely low temperatures, they become superconductors, conducting electrical current entirely without resistance. However, very low temperatures, just a few degrees above absolute zero, are required for this phenomenon to occur. In 1986 Alex Müller and Georg Bednorz discovered that a material composed of copper oxide with lantanum and barium additives became superconducting at a significantly higher temperature than previously tested materials. This sparked extensive research into similar materials.