The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to experimenters of quantum entanglement

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for their work in the pioneering science of quantum information. Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger conducted some of the first experiments with entangled photons, enabling a future for commercial quantum computers.

The scary world of quantum physics predicts some unexpected quirks, including quantum entanglement. This condition allows two particles to be so entangled with each other that changes made to one will immediately affect the other, no matter how far apart they are.

The idea bothered Einstein himself, who argued that quantum physics is an “incomplete theory” and instead hypothesized that as-yet-unknown “hidden variables” produce the phenomenon. In the 1960s, physicist John Stewart Bell developed a theoretical test for the debate, saying that if you test many pairs of particles, at a certain point the correlations become too random to be the product of hidden variables. This became known as Bell’s inequality.

Portraits of the three Nobel laureates, Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger

Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach

John Clauser, the first laureate of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics, developed Bell’s idea into a practical experiment. In doing so, he demonstrated a clear violation of the Bell inequality, providing support for quantum mechanics.

Alain Aspect built on Clauser’s work, closing a loophole through which hidden variables could potentially interfere with an experiment. He developed a way to change the measurement settings after an entangled pair of photons had left the source, meaning that the initial setting could not affect the result.

Later, Anton Zeilinger developed ways to use entangled photons to store and transmit information. This includes what is known as quantum teleportation, where information can essentially be teleported between particles over great distances instantly. This is a key part of the emerging field of quantum computing, encryption and communication networks.

“It has become increasingly clear that a new kind of quantum technology is emerging,” said Anders Irback, Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics. “We can see that the work of the entangled state laureates is of great importance, even beyond the fundamental questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics.”

The news follows Monday’s announcement that Swedish geneticist Svante Pääbo has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on sequencing extinct human fibroid genomes. The rest of the prizes will be awarded during the week.


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