Center For Integrating Research and Learning

Arrow1980 - 2003


Driven in part by growing concerns about the environment and the depletion of energy sources, scientists explored potential new sources of energy as well as ways of exploiting existing sources more efficiently. In 1997, Toyota launched a new hybrid vehicle, the Prius, which ran on both electricity and gas and offered better fuel efficiency and lower emissions than traditional vehicles. The technology eventually caught on, prompting automakers to develop more hybrid and electric cars. At the turn of the century, the first commercial wave power station, the Land Installed Marine Powered Energy Transformer (LIMPET), began generating electricity on the coast of Scotland.

Magnetic Force Microscope

A few years later, a team of Canadian researchers generated an electrical current by forcing water through a glass disk featuring millions of microchannels. Interaction between the water and the surface of the channels created a flow of ions, resulting in a streaming current. Researchers predicted scientists would build the first practical electrokinetic microchannel power generator within a decade.

New technologies permitted scientists to look at the world on nano scales, driving the growth of the new fields of nanotechnology and nanoscience. Scanning tunneling microscopy came into being in 1981, followed soon by the atomic force microscope, the magnetic force microscope and the magnetic x-ray spectromicroscope.

Personal computers became common in everyday life, a revolution recognized in 1982 when Time magazine chose a computer as its “Man of the Year,” and propelled by the creation of the World Wide Web in 1989. By the end of this period, about three quarters of all Americans had access to the Internet, spending an average of 12.5 hours a week online sending emails, socializing, shopping and gathering information. In 1999, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created the first quantum computer. Taking advantage of the properties of quantum rather than classical mechanics, this technology promised to lead to computers vastly more powerful than what was conceivable with existing technologies.

Oersted Satellite

Quantum physics theory saw advances, as well, with the 1980 discovery of the quantum Hall effect, experiments supplying evidence of new subatomic particles, and data to support a theorized link between electromagnetic interactions and a force known as “weak” force.

Electromagnetic research on an entirely different scale was furthered by the launch in 1999 of the Ørsted satellite. Like the Magsat satellite launched 20 years earlier, the Ørsted’s mission was to study the magnetic field of the Earth, both the strong field from inside the planet and the weaker, variable field resulting from the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere. By comparing the Ørsted and Magsat data, scientists would be able to document changes in these fields.

1980 - 2003


German physicist Klaus von Klitzing discovers that when electrical conductors are subjected to strong magnetic fields and low temperatures, their resistance varies in discrete quantized jumps rather than in a smooth, continuous manner, a phenomenon known as the quantum Hall effect.


Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), which is based on the so-called tunneling current that begins flowing when a sharp tip approaches a conducting surface at a distance of about one nanometer, is invented.


At the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), evidence of weakons (W and Z bosons) is produced, providing support for the theoretical link between weak and electromagnetic interactions.


Neodymium-iron-boron magnets, sometimes simply referred to as neo magnets, are first developed.


The magnetic force microscope, a variant of the non contact atomic force microscope, is demonstrated for the first time. The instrument accomplishes magnetic resolution by the magnetostatic interaction between a ferromagnetic tip and a sample’s stray micromagnetic fields.


For the first time, scientists achieve “high-temperature” superconductivity (above 77 degrees Kelvin) with a ceramic compound of yttrium, barium, copper and oxygen. Though the temperatures required to make YBCO superconductive are still quite low, they are high enough to be created with liquid nitrogen, much cheaper than the liquid helium required for lower temperatures.


German and French physicists discover the giant magnetoresistance (GMR) effect, which results from electron-spin effects in artificial multilayers of magnetic materials. The discovery marks the beginning of the field of spintronics, or spin-based electronics.


Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, invents and demonstrates the World Wide Web (WWW), merging the technologies of personal computers, computer networking and hypertext into a global information system.


A magnetic x-ray spectromicroscope, combining the photoemission and magneto-optic Kerr effect techniques, is demonstrated.


Toyota launches the world’s first mass-production hybrid vehicle, the Prius, which runs on both electricity and gas and offers better fuel efficiency and lower emissions than traditional vehicles.


The Danish Ørsted satellite, equipped to provide high-precision measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field, is successfully launched.


Electricity is marketed on the Internet for the first time.


The first commercial wave power station, called the Land Installed Marine Powered Energy Transformer (LIMPET), begins generating electricity on the Isle of Islay, Scotland.


A team of Canadian researchers directly generates an electrical current by pumping tap water through numerous microchannels in a disk made of glass.

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