Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics | Garching, Germany
With David Wineland and Peter Zoller, for their theoretical proposal and experimental realization of the first device that performs elementary computer-logic operations using the quantum properties of individual atoms.
In 1994 Ignacio Cirac and Peter Zoller proposed an experiment to construct a quantum computing device, which used quantum effects to perform computational functions, using cold trapped ions. General ideas of quantum computing had been discussed for several years—the idea of using particles to create a computer with entirely new powers was first suggested in the 1980s by Richard Feynman. Not only would a quantum computer be very powerful, but it would allow for solving problems that a typical binary computer cannot, since quantum effects allow for the simultaneous processing of many possible answers to a logical question, as opposed to considering them sequentially. Cirac and Zoller's concrete description of a realistic quantum logic gate, the fundamental device in the computer that operates logic functions, included such meticulous detail that David Wineland and coworkers were able to build their machine within a year. It was the first demonstration of computer logic functions that exploited the laws of quantum mechanics at the level of individual atoms, thus establishing that quantum computing—with its potential for much more powerful computers—may be possible.
Ignacio Cirac grew up in Spain. He attended the Universidad Complutense de Madrid for his undergraduate and graduate degrees, earning them in 1988 and 1991, respectively. After work at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha and Leopold Franzens Universität Innsbruck, Cirac began research at the Max Planck Institute in 2001, where he is now the Director of the Theory Division. It was during several research visits made to JILA in Boulder, Colorado between 1991 and 1994 that Cirac began working with Peter Zoller on their ideas for quantum computing.
Cirac's awards include the Kuschenitz Prize, the Carl Zeiss Award, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award, the European Science Foundation's Quantum Electronics Prize, and the Medal of the Royal Physical Society of Spain.
Information as of April 2010