Nobel Prize for physics awarded jointly to quantum optics trailblazers

9 Oct 2012

Nobel Laureate Serge Haroche. Image via Collège de France

The 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded jointly to Serge Haroche from the Collège de France and David Wineland from the University of Colorado Boulder for their pioneering work in the field of quantum optics.

Both aged 68, Haroche and Wineland work in the field of quantum optics to study the fundamental interaction between light and matter.

Working independently of each other, they have invented and developed methods for measuring and manipulating individual particles without destroying them.

Today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said it had awarded the two scientists with the physics prize for “ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”.

In his research, Wineland traps electrically charged atoms, or ions, and then controls and measures them with light, or photons. Meanwhile, taking an opposite approach, Haroche controls and measures trapped photons by sending atoms through a trap.

“Their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of super-fast computer based on quantum physics. Perhaps the quantum computer will change our everyday lives in this century in the same radical way as the classical computer did in the last century,” said the academy.

Nobel Laureate David Wineland. Image via Wikipedia

Nobel Laureate David Wineland. Image via Wikipedia

Prof Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics, spoke today about how Haroche and Wineland have made “tremendous advances” in our understanding of quantum entanglement.

“Their work demonstrates very fundamental behaviour of quantum systems under complete control, and underpins quantum technologies relevant to quantum computing and atomic clocks,” he said.

Born in 1944 in Casablanca, Morocco, Haroche is a professor at Collège de France in Paris. Also born in 1944 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the US, Wineland is a fellow at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder.

Yesterday, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to the scientists Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon for their independent stem-cell research.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic