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Nobel prize in Physics 2012 - Accessing Quantum Systems in the Lab



10 October 2012

The University of Sydney School of Physics congratulates the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, David Wineland and Serge Haroche.

David Wineland and Serge Haroche have independently invented and implemented new technologies and methods allowing the measurement and control of individual quantum systems. Effectively, these methods and technologies allow us to access quantum systems and study the most exotic elements of quantum theory.

Illustration of the two types of experiments discussed in this scientific background: On the  left, an ion is captured in a  harmonic trap. Its quantum state (both its internal state and its 
motion) is controlled by interaction with laser pulses as exemplified for the case of Be+. On the right, a photon is (or several photons are) trapped in a high-Q microwave cavity. The field state  is measured and controlled by interaction with highly excited Rb atoms. Image source: www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2012/advanced-physicsprize2012.pdf
Illustration of the two types of experiments discussed in this scientific background: On the left, an ion is captured in a harmonic trap. Its quantum state (both its internal state and its motion) is controlled by interaction with laser pulses as exemplified for the case of Be+. On the right, a photon is (or several photons are) trapped in a high-Q microwave cavity. The field state is measured and controlled by interaction with highly excited Rb atoms. Image source: www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2012/advanced-physicsprize2012.pdf

This Nobel Prize recognizes work that has a daily impact on the research that is the focus of the Quantum Physics Group at Sydney. Dr Michael Biercuk from the School of Physics and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, EQUS, worked in a team under the leadership of David Wineland during his time with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in America. "Dave really built the field of ion trapping into a worldwide effort. His initial demonstrations of quantum logic using trapped ions have given rise to a global community studying trapped-ion quantum computation."

The new methods allow them to probe the fundamentally quantum mechanical nature of matter. The methods saw two different approaches: Wineland studies trapped electrically charged atoms, or ions, controlling and measuring them with light, composed of photons. Serge Haroche takes a complementary approach, controlling and measuring photons, or particles of light, by studying their interaction with atoms in a cavity

The applications of this research range from extraordinarily accurate quantum clocks hundreds of times more accurate than state-of-the-art commercial atomic clocks, to quantum computation and simulation with the projected ability to perform calculations with unfathomably greater efficiency than any known supercomputer.

The University of Sydney is amongst this groundbreaking research with groups such as EQUS and the Centre for Ultra-high bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems and the ARC Centre of excellence, CUDOS headed by Professor Ben Eggleton, who said "A frontier of Physics is in quantum optics and we here at the University of Sydney are a part of it. Very exciting."

"The award could not have gone to a better scientist or more deserving person than David, he has inspired and touched the careers of so many young scientists, all over the world," said Dr Biercuk.


Contact: Tom Gordon

Phone: 02 9351 3201

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