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2012 Nobel Prize in Physics goes to pioneers of quantum technologies

9 October 2012

Photo of David J Wineland visiting CQT in 2012.

Dave Wineland (left) is pictured here on his most recent visit to CQT, in discussion with Principal Investigator Dzmitry Matsukevich. Photo © Daniel K. L. Oi.
Photo of Serge Haroche giving College de France lectures in Singapore in 2012.

Serge Haroche, Chair in Quantum Physics at the College de France, delivered his prestigious College de France lecture series in Singapore in 2012.

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to fellow explorers of the quantum world. Congratulations to Serge Haroche and Dave Wineland! They share the 2012 award "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems". The press announcement states that the new laureates "opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics". Indeed, many of the experiments — and people — at the Centre for Quantum Technologies owe them a debt of gratitude.

"I am very happy for Dave and Serge. It is certainly well deserved. They developed the most amazing, precise methods of controlling individual photons, atoms and ions," says Artur Ekert, CQT Director. These techniques have helped researchers not only to explore the fundamental properties of the quantum world but also to think about harnessing quantum behaviour for new kinds of technology.

Dave Wineland from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, is one of the founding members of CQT's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB visit CQT every year to review and advise on the Centre's resarch direction, most recently in August, and there are a handful of groups working with the techniques for trapping ions that Dave developed.

"We've always been glad to benefit from Dave's insight and experience," says Artur. As it happens, the announcement found Artur in the US with plans to catch up with his friend and adviser: "I was about to see Dave later today - now I will probably celebrate with him tonight."

One of the ion trap experiments at CQT is headed by Murray Barrett, who was a postdoc in Dave's group at NIST before moving to CQT. On hearing about the Nobel prize, Murray said: "It's about time!".

Murray adds: "Dave's research has spanned a wide range of topics in laser cooling, frequency metrology, and quantum information and so there are many reasons to justify this award. His calm demeanor and modesty are inspirational and encourage the very best from those around him. In every sense, he has been a long standing leader in the ion trapping community."

CQT also had the privilege of hosting Serge Haroche from the Collège de France and École Normale Supérieure, Paris, to give a lecture series earlier this year.

CQT Principal Investigator Berge Englert, who has known Serge for some 20 years, says "the motivation for his experiments is beautiful and they are also skilfully carried out, This is physics at the limit of what can be done nowadays." He also notes that the lectures delivered in Singapore were a hit. "The students were really captivated. A repeating comment in the student feedback forms is that we should do this again."

Find the full announcement of the prize and more scientific background at Nobelprize.org, The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012.

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