Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to pioneers of quantum computing

Three scientists who laid the groundwork for understanding the strange “entangled” behavior of quantum particles have been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics.

French physicist Alain Aspect, Austrian Anton Zeilinger and American John Clauser were honored for their experiments exploring the nature of entangled quantum particles.

Defying the logic of our everyday reality, these particles behave as a single unit even when they are far apart. Engineers are now working to exploit this strange behavior in a range of breakthrough technologies, including quantum computing and quantum cryptographya supposedly unbreakable technique for securely encoding information.

The beginnings of quantum theory can be traced back to the great physicists of the early 20th century, including Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. But the generation represented by the three new Nobel laureates has bridged the gap between theory and practical experiences and applications.

Related: 10 mind-boggling things you should know about quantum physics

“Quantum information science is a dynamic and rapidly developing field. It has a wide range of potential implications in areas such as secure information transfer, quantum computing and sensing technology,” said said Eva Olsson, member of the Nobel Committee for Physics, in a statement. press conference on Tuesday (October 4). “This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics honors the groundbreaking work and science of central figures who have taken up the challenges and met them in the laboratories.”

One of the most mature applications of quantum technology is quantum cryptography, which takes advantage of the fact that changes to one particle in one entangled system affect the other. The encryption keys for secret messages can therefore be encoded in the quantum states of these particles. These keys can be exchanged between parties in the communication process in complete safety, as any interception of the secret keys by a third party would inherently alter the quantum state of the particles and render the keys invalid.

Quantum key distribution via satellites was first demonstrated by China in 2016 as part of its Quantum Experiments at Space Scale project. countries all over the world have since begun to develop similar technologies.

Perhaps the most publicized application of entangled quantum particles is in the nascent field of quantum computing. Quantum computers encode information into the quantum states of particles, which can lead to giant leaps in the speed of information processing.

Scientists believe that once operational, quantum computers will accelerate drug research, materials science and lead to improvements in climate change modeling and weather forecasting, among other benefits.

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

“This award demonstrates the fundamental beauty of physics,” Penelope Lewis, publishing director of the American Institute of Physics’ publishing department, said in a statement. “Through their pioneering experiments in quantum entanglement, Aspect, Clauser, and Zeilinger brought quantum mechanics from its philosophical beginnings—dating back nearly a century—to the present day. Their experiments laid the groundwork for incredible advances in quantum computing and cryptography, technologies with the potential to transform the modern world.”

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Sherry J. Basler