At the frontier of quantum physics

14.11.2016 | News

By:  Fabio Bergamin

The ETH Zurich Latsis Prize 2016 goes to ETH physics professor Jonathan Home. He studies the frontier between quantum and classical physics using individual charged atoms that he controls with high precision.

Jonathan Home
Jonathan Home. (Photograph: ETH Zurich / Giulia Marthaler)

Jonathan Home’s main tool for exploring the laws of nature is ion traps. The Professor of Experimental Quantum Optics and Photonics uses these devices to keep individual charged atoms (ions) firmly in one place. Home controls the ions with lasers, thereby creating systems that beautifully show their quantum-physical nature.

His main interest, however, is an area at the frontier of quantum physics: by letting trapped ions interact in a controlled manner, Home generates systems that are too large to be described entirely by quantum physics, but too small to be ruled exclusively by the laws of classical physics that we know from everyday experience.

Systems of this kind can be manipulated and controlled to a high degree of precision. This is also of practical significance. Having control over a large number of ions enables the construction of simple quantum information-processing systems – a stepping stone towards quantum computers. In recognition of his work, Home is to receive this year’s ETH Zurich Latsis Prize at the upcoming ETH Day ceremony on 19 November (see box).

ETH professor Tilman Esslinger – who, like Home, works at the Institute for Quantum Electronics – is full of praise for his 37-year-old colleague: “Among the younger generation of researchers in this field, Jonathan Home stands out on an international level.” ETH professor Uwe Sauer, President of the ETH Zurich Research Commission, which acts as the jury for the ETH Zurich Latsis Prize, adds: “Within the few years since joining ETH Zurich, Jonathan Home not only has conquered the technical challenges that come with building up state-of-the-art laboratory apparatus, he has also been able to formulate extraordinarily exciting physics problems, which he explores using that apparatus.”

Home has been appointed a professor at ETH Zurich in 2010. Prior to this, the UK scientist worked as a postdoc at the laboratory of the 2012 Physics Nobel laureate David Wineland, in Boulder, US. Read a detailed portrait of Home here.

Latsis Prize and ETH Day 2016

Established by the Fondation Latsis Internationale, the Latsis Prize is awarded annually by ETH Zurich to honour outstanding young researchers across all research disciplines. It will be presented by ETH Rector Sarah Springman on ETH Day, 19 November 2016, and carries a prize money of CHF 25,000.

Prize winners in recent years: www.fondationlatsis.org

On ETH Day, guests from the worlds of research, politics and business will come to ETH Zurich to celebrate the 161st anniversary of the university. Traditionally, this is the day on which ETH Zurich awards honorary doctorates to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the international scientific community. Similarly, students, doctoral candidates and lecturers are honoured for outstanding achievements.

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