Quantum scientists win Nobel Prize in Physics

Research by Nobel laureates is now being used for encrypted communications, says Nobel Prize committee

October 4, 2022
Illustration to represent quantum physics
Source: iStock

Three scientists have shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their research on quantum technology.

Alain Aspect, from France, John Clauser from the US, and Austria’s Anton Zeilinger were rewarded for what the Nobel committee described as “ground-breaking experiments using entangled quantum states, where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated”.

“Their results have cleared the way for new technology based upon quantum information,” it said, stating that it was now being used in quantum computers, quantum networks and secure quantum encrypted communications.

Theoretical physicist Professor Clauser, who worked at the University of California, Berkeley and national laboratories associated with it during his career, is recognised for creating a practical experiment based on the ideas of the Northern Irish physicist John Bell, whose theorem stated that if there are hidden variables, the correlation between the results of a large number of measurements will never exceed a certain value.

However, Professor Clauser’s experiments in the 1970s proved that quantum mechanics predicts that certain types of experiments would violate the theorem.

Professor Aspect, a professor at Université Paris-Saclay and École Polytechnique, in France, later developed Professor Clauser’s experiments to close what the Nobel committee called “an important loophole”.

Using refined tools and long series of experiments, Professor Zeilinger, a professor at the University of Vienna, started to use entangled quantum states. His research group has demonstrated a phenomenon called quantum teleportation, which makes it possible to move a quantum state from one particle to one at a distance.

“It has become increasingly clear that a new kind of quantum technology is emerging. We can see that the laureates’ work with entangled states is of great importance, even beyond the fundamental questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics,” said Anders Irbäck, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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