Peter Zoller

Peter Zoller
Peter Zoller
  • From:

    Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Innsbruck | Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, Austrian Academy of Sciences | Innsbruck, Austria

  • Year:


  • Subject:


  • Award:

    Benjamin Franklin Medal

  • Citation:

    With J. Ignacio Cirac and David Wineland, 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.

Peter Zoller was born in Austria and attended high school and college at the Gymnasium Innsbruck, graduating in 1970. He earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Innsbruck in 1977. He has taught and done research there ever since, with the exception of 1990-1994, when he was at JILA in Colorado. He has also held guest professorships and lecturer positions at such diverse institutions as the University of Leiden, Harvard, and Tsinghua University in Beijing. From the beginning of his career, Zoller has been involved with the quantum effects of light interacting with matter. He focused on quantum optics and laser cooling. Zoller's research also includes using cold atoms to create a "quantum simulator" that could be used to study unexplained quantum phenomena such as those in high temperature superconductors.

Peter Zoller's awards include the Dirac Medal, the 6th International Quantum Communication Award, UNESCO's Niels Bohr Gold Medal, the German Physical Society's Max Planck Medal, the Humboldt Research Award, the Optical Society of America's Max Born Award, and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science's Wittgenstein Award.

Information as of April 2010