Quantum Computing Scientists Bag 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics

Haroche [left] from Collège de France and Wineland [right] of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the University of Colorado have received the highly coveted award and will be sharing the prize as well as money that go along with it. In a press release the awards committee said that the duo has been awarded for “ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”.

The research carried out by the scientists has led to construction of laser-cooled atomic clocks which itself is a building block for the current research in quantum computing. “The Nobel Laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them”, the committee said.

Single particles are not easy to isolate from their surrounding environment and if isolated, they lose their quantum properties as soon as they interact with the outside world. This is where the physicists’ work is important. Through their lab methods, Haroche and Wineland along with their teams were able to “measure and control very fragile quantum states.”

Though the end results of the methods adopted by the scientists are nearly the same, their techniques are a little different. While Wineland “traps electrically charged atoms, or ions, controlling and measuring them with light, or photons,” Haroche “controls and measures trapped photons, or particles of light, by sending atoms through a trap.”