UT professor’s studies of ‘twistronics’ wins prestigious 2020 Wolf Prize for Physics


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A professor at the University of Texas at Austin has been awarded one of the most prestigious awards in the field of physics.

Allan MacDonald, a theoretical physicist, was named one of three recipients of the 2020 Wolf Prize in physics. After the Nobel Prize, the Wolf Prize is considered one of the top prizes in the field.

MacDonald’s work with twistronics, a field within physics he helped pioneer, holds extraordinary promise to “lead to an energy revolution,” the Wolf Foundation said in a press release.

In an interview with KXAN, MacDonald describes twistronics as quantum mechanics adding that he’s doing quantum mechanics “all day long — dawn till dusk.”

MacDonald and other researchers found out if two sheets of graphene, atom-thin sheets of carbon, were stacked on each other — and the bottom sheet is twisted just 1.1 degrees (the magic angle, MacDonald calls it) — superconductivity can be achieved.

MacDonald called it “the holy grail” of physics.

He has been studying graphene since it was discovered in 2004, using supercomputers at the university to figure out graphene’s electrical properties. MacDonald says he’s fascinated at where work in the field could lead.

“I’m drawn to theory that connects directly to things that actually happen,” he said in the release, “and I’m interested in the power of math and theory to describe the real world.”

MacDonald shared this year’s Wolf Prize with two others: Pabol Jarillo-Herrero of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rafi Bistritzer, a former postdoctoral researcher in MacDonald’s lab, who now works in Israel.

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