[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 15-Feb-2006
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Contact: Lonnie Shekhtman
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Researchers make elusive discovery and capture prestigious AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize

An elusive discovery by a group of researchers earned them the coveted 2004-2005 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the oldest award conferred by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of the journal Science. In a paper published in Science, the research team reported observing the spin Hall effect, the first time it has been seen in an experiment.

The researchers are Yuichiro K. Kato, Roberto C. Myers, Arthur C. Gossard, and David Awschalom. The journal report, "Observation of the Spin Hall Effect in Semiconductors," was published online in Science Express on 11 November 2004 and in the print edition on 10 December 2004. At the time of publication, the authors' affiliation was the Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation, University of California, Santa Barbara. Today, Kato is at Stanford University.

This paper shows the spin effects in semiconducting materials induced by electric fields along the length of the material. The authors were able to show that oppositely directed effects could be induced at the edges, using an elegant optical technique. They then examined possible sources of the effect, showing that it is not the result of intrinsic coupling but rather a form of scattering that did not depend on the nature of the semiconducting material used.

"The extraordinary care of the experiments and the clarity with which the mechanism of the effect was deduced has led to extraordinary attention from the condensed-matter and materials science communities," said Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy. "This is an outstanding contribution to the field of physics."

Affymetrix Inc. added its support to the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize in 2003. The company's founder, chair and chief executive officer Stephen P.A. Fodor and his colleagues were awarded the Newcomb Cleveland Prize in 1990 for their landmark publication which first introduced microarray technology to the scientific community.

"Receiving the Newcomb Cleveland Award in 1990 was the first important public acknowledgment of our invention," said Fodor. "Today, the award remains one of our most valued. Affymetrix is thrilled to support it continued legacy. It is important to recognize and encourage the innovative work of new scientists as their work will become the foundation for future research and discovery."

In 1879, Edward Hall placed a thin layer of gold in a strong magnetic field, connected a battery to the opposite sides of this film, and measured the current flowing through it. He discovered that a small voltage appeared across this film that was proportional to the strength of magnetic field multiplied by the current. In 1971, two Russian physicists predicted that a similar effect could be expected in spin physics, but the spin Hall effect defied experimental detection for 33 years.

The Hall effect did not find practical application until the second half of the 20th century when it was used to mass-produce semiconductor chips, and today it is widely used in sensors and electronics. The research team at UC, Santa Barbara first discovered the signatures of the spin Hall effect in semiconductor chips made from gallium arsenide, which is similar to those used in cell phones, and also studied the effect in samples made from indium gallium arsenide. Although the practical applications of this team's discovery are yet unknown, they may arise in sensing technologies, quantum computing and quantum communication.


The Prize was established in 1923, with funds donated by Newcomb Cleveland of New York City, to recognize outstanding Science articles. It is presented annually to the author(s) of the best research article or report published in Science between 1 June of each year and 31 May of the following year. The value of the Prize is presently $25,000; the recipient also receives a bronze medal. Today the award is supported by Affymetrix, Santa Clara, Calif.

Throughout the year, Science readers may nominate papers appearing in the journal's research articles, reports, or reviews sections. See http://www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/awards for more details.

Affymetrix is a pioneer in creating breakthrough tools that are driving the genomic revolution. By applying the principles of semiconductor technology to the life sciences, Affymetrix develops and commercializes systems that enable scientists to improve quality of life. The Company's customers include pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agrichemical, diagnostics, and consumer products companies as well as academic, government, and other non-profit research institutes. Affymetrix offers an expanding portfolio of integrated products and services, including its integrated GeneChip® platform, to address growing markets focused on understanding the relationship between genes and human health. Affymetrix has almost 900 employees worldwide.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

For more information on AAAS awards, see http://www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/awards. Awards will be bestowed at the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo., on 18 February.

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, dedicated to "Advancing science ∙ Serving society."

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