The Charpak-Ritz Prize 2024 awarded to Frédéric Mila

The Charpak-Ritz Prize is jointly given by the French and the Swiss Physical Society

The Charpak-Ritz Prize 2024 is awarded to Frédéric Mila for his contributions to the theory of strongly correlated systems, in particular for the successful analysis of several experimental results in systems ranging from high-temperature superconducting cuprates to frustrated quantum magnets thanks to a thorough investigation of various strongly correlated models and to a close collaboration with experimental groups.

Frédéric Mila is a condensed matter theorist at EPFL. His PhD in Saclay on surface phonons was partly experimental, and since then most of the problems he has worked on have been motivated or inspired by experiments. During his first post-doc at ETH Zürich with Maurice Rice, he developed a model of the hyperfine coupling between the spins located at the copper site and the neighbouring oxygen ions in high-temperature superconducting cuprates. This model led to predictions that were shortly after confirmed by NMR experiments done in the group of Charles Slichter, a result that landed direct support to the one-band description of these materials, and to the role of magnetic fluctuations.

He then started to work on the magnetic properties of Mott insulators, first as a post-doc (Rutgers and Neuchâtel), then as a chargé de recherche at CNRS in Toulouse. He came up with a microscopic theory of the low-lying singlets of the kagome spin-1/2 Heisenberg model, supporting the scenario of a resonating-valence bond (RVB) ground state in that system. He also showed that the spin-1/2 ladder has a 1/2-magnetisation plateau if the inter-dimer coupling is frustrated, opening the way to the experimental investigation of magnetization plateaus in Mott insulators. In parallel, motivated by the properties of Mott insulators with orbital degeneracy, he started to work on SU(N) model, an endeavour that led years later, in collaboration with a colleague from Canada, Ian Affleck. to the generalisation of Haldane’s conjecture to SU(3).

Since he came to Lausanne in 2000, Frédéric Mila has become a leading figure in the field of frustrated magnetism. Thanks to extensive collaborations with experimental groups in France, Switzerland, Japan and the US, he has contributed to the identification of a remarkable series of magnetization plateaus in a 2D cuprate, SrCu2(BO3)2, and to the explanation of another remarkable property of that system, a critical point analog to that of water. In 2005, he took part in the creation of the “Highly Frustrated Magnet” program of the European Science Foundation and sat on its steering committee until 2011. In 2007, he organised a summer school and workshop on Highly Frustrated Magnets at ICTP Trieste, and in 2011, with two French colleagues, he co-edited the reference book on Highly Frustrated Magnets (Springer).


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