2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for Measuring and Manipulating Individual Quantum Systems

News Release

Background information and a statement by AIP executive director and CEO

Serge Haroche


David Wineland

College Park, Md., October 9, 2012 — The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics will be awarded to Serge Haroche of the Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France; and David J. Wineland of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo., “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems,” which have expanded our understanding of the realm of the very small and paved the way to new research and technologies.

Quantum mechanics, the study of how matter interacts with energy at the scale of atoms, has profoundly changed how scientists view the universe. On the quantum scale, matter and energy behave in ways that seem nonsensical and radically different from the world we ordinarily experience. Once exclusively in the realm of theory and thought experiments, quantum mechanics has emerged as the foundation of new scientific investigation, with intriguing possibilities for future technology and innovation. This year's laureates:

  • Opened the door to experimentation and manipulation by studying individual quantum particles without destroying them;
  • Measured and controlled quantum states, once beyond the reach of direct observation; and,
  • Took the first steps toward harnessing quantum mechanics, which is already at work in highly accurate atomic clocks and may fulfill the promise of quantum computers that — rather than relying on zeros and ones — will use fuzzy quantum states to conduct calculations many times faster than the most powerful computers today.


“This year's Nobel Prize in Physics shines light on two ground-breaking advances in quantum physics. By measuring and manipulating both light and individual atoms, these researchers have opened the door for new investigations into the previously enigmatic and unwieldy world of quantum particles, where matter behaves in ways that are quite different from what we see in classical physics. We are beginning to harness the incredible power of quantum physics to advance technology, computers, timekeeping, cryptography, and many other innovations that have yet to be imagined.”

— Dr. H. Frederick Dylla, executive director and CEO, American Institute of Physics


“The works by Serge Haroche and David Wineland are among the most influential research endeavors of modern physics. Together they have provided new investigational tools for researchers and established a foundation to understand the relationships between matter and light at the smallest of scales. Quantum mechanics was once just theory and philosophy, but through this work and the ongoing research of others, we are now testing, manipulating, and building upon these scientific principles.”

— John Haynes, vice president, publishing, American Institute of Physics

Physics Today Articles by Recipients:

‘Laser Cooling,’ David J. Wineland and Wayne M. Itano, June 1987
“Time Measurement at the Millennium,” James C. Bergquist, Steven R. Jefferts, and David J. Wineland, March 2001
“Cavity Quantum Electrodynamics,” Serge Haroche and Daniel Kleppner, January 1989

Pictures, Graphics, and Multimedia:

NIST ‘Quantum Logic Clock’ Rivals Mercury Ion as World's Most Accurate Clock
Ion traps (from NIST image gallery):
How Atomic Clocks Work — David Wineland
Atomic Clock Applications — David Wineland
Ion Trapping — David Wineland
Ion Trapping for Quantum Computation — David Wineland

Selection of Awards by AIP Member Societies:

David Wineland (APS Fellow): APS 2001 Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science Recipient
APS 1990 Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics Recipient
Optical Society of America's Frederick Ives Award
Serge Haroche (APS Fellow): OSA 2010 Herbert Walther Award of the German Physical Society and Optical Society of America

Experts in the General Subject Area

Gerald Gabrielse, Harvard
William D. Phillips, Joint Quantum Institute
Steve Rolston, Joint Quantum Institute
William Wootters, Williams College
Paul G. Kwiat, University of Illinois

Websites and Background

Nobel Prize site

Recipients' sites:
Serge Haroche
David Wineland


Viewpoint: Moving Traps Offer Fast Delivery of Cold Ions: (August 2012)
Focus: Landmarks: Laser Cooling of Atoms (April 2008)
Essay: Fifty Years of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in Physical Review Letters (October 13, 2008), Serge Haroche
Quantum Leap Reported for Entangled Photons

NIST press releases:

CNRS press releases:

NSF Background:
Quantum Information Science: An Emerging Field of Interdisciplinary Research and Education in Science and Engineering
Discovery: How to Teleport Quantum Information from One Atom to Another
Scientists Create First Working Model of a Two-Qubit Electronic Quantum Processor
News from the Field: New Record for Information Storage and Retrieval Lifetime Advances Quantum Networks
News from the Field: Quantum Networks Advance with Entanglement of Photons, Solid-state Qubits

Last year's prize was awarded to Saul Perlmutter of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., and the University of California, Berkeley; Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University; and Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute, both in Baltimore, Md., “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.” https://www.aip.org/news/2011/2011-nobel-prize-physics-accelerating-expansion-universe

APS Journal Articles by Nobel Laureates

Seminal Papers by Serge Haroche:

Quantum Memory with a Single Photon in a Cavity
X. Ma�tre, E. Hagley, G. Nogues, C. Wunderlich, P. Goy, M. Brune, J. M. Raimond, and S. Haroche
Phys. Rev. Lett. 79, 769 (1997)

Generation of Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Pairs of Atoms
E. Hagley, X. Maître, G. Nogues, C. Wunderlich, M. Brune, J. M. Raimond, and S. Haroche
Phys. Rev. Lett. 79, 1 (1997)

Observing the Progressive Decoherence of the “Meter” in a Quantum Measurement
M. Brune, E. Hagley, J. Dreyer, X. Maître, A. Maali, C. Wunderlich, J. M. Raimond, and S. Haroche
Phys. Rev. Lett. 77, 4887 (1996)

Quantum Rabi Oscillation: A Direct Test of Field Quantization in a Cavity
M. Brune, F. Schmidt-Kaler, A. Maali, J. Dreyer, E. Hagley, J. M. Raimond, and S. Haroche
Phys. Rev. Lett. 76, 1800 (1996)

Quantum switches and nonlocal microwave fields
L. Davidovich, A. Maali, M. Brune, J. M. Raimond, and S. Haroche
Phys. Rev. Lett. 71, 2360 (1993)

Simple cavity-QED two-bit universal quantum logic gate: The principle and expected performances
P. Domokos, J. M. Raimond, M. Brune, and S. Haroche
Phys. Rev. A 52, 3554 (1995)

Teleportation of an atomic state between two cavities using nonlocal microwave fields
L. Davidovich, N. Zagury, M. Brune, J.M. Raimond, and S. Haroche
Phys. Rev. A 50, R895 (1994)

Manipulation of photons in a cavity by dispersive atom-field coupling: Quantum-nondemolition measurements and generation of "Schr�dinger cat" states
M. Brune, S. Haroche, J. M. Raimond, L. Davidovich, and N. Zagury
Phys. Rev. A 45, 5193 (1992)


Seminal Papers by David J. Wineland:

Deterministic Entanglement of Two Trapped Ions
Q. A. Turchette, C. S. Wood, B. E. King, C. J. Myatt, D. Leibfried, W. M. Itano, C. Monroe, and D. J. Wineland
Phys. Rev. Lett. 81, 3631 (1998)

Cooling the Collective Motion of Trapped Ions to Initialize a Quantum Register
B. E. King, C. S. Wood, C. J. Myatt, Q. A. Turchette, D. Leibfried, W. M. Itano, C. Monroe, and D. J. Wineland
Phys. Rev. Lett. 81, 1525 (1998)

Simplified quantum logic with trapped ions
C. Monroe, D. Leibfried, B. E. King, D. M. Meekhof, W. M. Itano, and D. J. Wineland
Phys. Rev. A 55, R2489 (1997)

Optimal frequency measurements with maximally correlated states
J. J . Bollinger, Wayne M. Itano, D. J. Wineland, and D. J. Heinzen
Phys. Rev. A 54, R4649 (1996)

Experimental Determination of the Motional Quantum State of a Trapped Atom
D. Leibfried, D. M. Meekhof, B. E. King, C. Monroe, W. M. Itano, and D. J. Wineland
Phys. Rev. Lett. 77, 4281 (1996)

Demonstration of a fundamental quantum logic gate
C. Monroe, D. M. Meekhof, B. E. King, W. M. Itano, and D. J. Wineland
Phys. Rev. Lett. 75, 4714 (1995)

Laser Cooling to the Zero-Point Energy of Motion
F. Diedrich, J. C. Bergquist, Wayne M. Itano, and D. J. Wineland
Phys. Rev. Lett. 62, 403 (1989)

Additional Pictures

Journalists are welcome to use AIP's W.F. Meggers Gallery of Nobel Laureates, which contains a collection of all the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics up to 2010, as well as physicists who have received a Nobel Prize in other areas (e.g. Chemistry or Peace).

Gallery: https://photos.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/photos/nobel-gallery

Image Use Policy: https://photos.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/photos/use-policy

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