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Quantum pioneers bag Wolf prize

By Michael Banks

Photographs of Peter Zoller and Juan Ignacio Cirac

Winners of the Wolf prize: Peter Zoller (left) and Juan Ignacio Cirac.
(Courtesy: University of Innsbruck; EFE)

The 2013 Wolf Prize in Physics has been awarded to Juan Ignacio Cirac of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Munich, Germany, and Peter Zoller of Innsbruck University in Austria for “groundbreaking theoretical contributions to quantum-information processing, quantum optics and the physics of quantum gases”. The duo will share the $100,000 prize, which will be presented by the president of Israel at the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in May.

Both Zoller and Cirac are key figures in the burgeoning field of quantum information, having, for example, devised several protocols for quantum communication based on entangling two or more ultra-cold atoms, as well as developed methods for quantum computing based on trapped ions.

“It is very exciting to receive one of the top prizes in physics, and even more so to share this award with Cirac, who has been a long-time friend and colleague,” Zoller told “I feel very lucky to have been working as a theorist in the field of quantum optics, which during the last 20 years has redefined itself by building interdisciplinary bridges to quantum information and quantum many-body physics.”

Cirac also told that it is a “great honour” to receive the Wolf prize. “I think it is fair to say that [we] represent several scientists who have made many contributions to the field of quantum information – a field that is still progressing and attracting many different scientific communities,” he says. He adds much of the work was carried out in collaboration with other scientists and that the prize “also recognizes their work”.

The Wolf prize is awarded by the Wolf Foundation in Israel and is thought to be one of the most prestigious prizes in physics after the Nobel prize. The foundation was created in 1975 by Ricardo Wolf, a German-born inventor and diplomat.

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