This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger. They have conducted groundbreaking experiments on so-called entangled quantum states, one of the most remarkable aspects of quantum mechanics. Carlo Canali, professor of physics at Linnaeus university and research leader for the research group Condensed Matter Physics, comments on this year’s recipients.
Quantum mechanics is the study of the very smallest building blocks in the universe, and perhaps one of the most remarkable and counterintuitive branches of physics. Entirely different laws apply in microcosm and one of the most incomprehensible phenomena that have been found there is so-called entanglement. This means, very simplified, that particles that have somehow previously belonged together are forever linked to each other. Regardless of the distance between them, changes to one of the particles will instantaneously change the properties of the other particles, even if they are light-years apart. This year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics have studied how we can understand and use entangled quantum states in practice.
One hope is to be able to use the phenomenon of entanglement in so-called quantum computers, for secure quantum encrypted communication, and perhaps even to teleport information! Even today, companies and research centres use quantum computers for theoretical studies and concrete projects, but in the future, it will be possible to use the technology also in consumer products.
Was the prize well-deserved?
“Yes, it was very well-deserved! The Nobel laureates’ research shows us how things that can seem very abstract, which historically have been of mainly academic interest, have resulted in a better understanding of the world and new technical development, which today affects us all. We are headed towards an unprecedented technical revolution!”, says Canali.
What practical applications could their research result in?
“Their research has already boosted the development of quantum information theory, the applications and technologies of which include quantum computers, which can dramatically speed up how we process data, and quantum cryptography, to protect these computers from cyberattacks. The applications are potentially infinite. It will, for instance, be possible to develop medicines and artificial intelligence systems that are far superior to the ones we have today”, Canali continues.
Could you describe in short what you conduct research on together with University of Texas at El Paso, and a little about the master’s course on which you teach where you deal with this particular subject?
“We collaborate with researchers at University of Texas at El Paso on the physics/nanophysics of condensed materials and we thought it was time to develop a master’s course that gives an introduction to quantum calculation for our students in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science. We are now giving the course online in real-time to students both at Linnaeus University and University of Texas at El Paso. Since quantum computers affect many different areas and competences, and cover many different scientific disciplines, we physicists collaborate interdisciplinary with other colleagues in the knowledge environment Advanced Materials, above all with chemists”, Canali concludes.
Read also the news: "Nobel laureates Aspect and Zeilinger frequent lecturers at Linnaeus University" with a link to laureate Professor Zeilinger's lecture The Future of Bell Experiments from 2016.