10/05/2006 07:00:00

Caltech Professor Receives German Award for Laser Innovations

PASADENA, Calif.-H. Jeff Kimble, Valentine Professor and professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, has been chosen by the German foundation Berthold Leibinger Stiftung as the initial recipient of its new Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis ("Future Prize").

To be awarded every two years, this prize is intended to honor "outstanding milestones in research" related to laser light and carries a prize of 20,000 euros (approximately $25,000). The jury recognized Kimble "for his groundbreaking experiments in the field of cavity quantum electrodynamics," which form "an essential foundation for quantum information technology . . . a key technology of the 21st century."

Kimble's group studies the quantum mechanics of open systems. While his experiments are basic investigations of the nature of the interaction of light and matter, Kimble takes particular interest in transforming fundamental physical processes into scientific tools for advancing quantum information science, with applications ranging from quantum metrology to the processing and distribution of quantum information.

An example is research related to the realization of complex quantum networks, which would be composed of nodes capable of storing and manipulating quantum mechanical states and channels for linking the nodes together in a fully coherent fashion. The network could have nodes consisting of atoms trapped in optical cavities and channels formed by fiber-optic links carrying single-photon states. Such a "quantum internet" was proposed and analyzed by Kimble and his colleagues in 1997.

In 1995 Kimble's group demonstrated a quantum phase gate for two beams of light, which he described as "a quantum transistor with single photons, which had properties suitable for the implementation of quantum logic and perhaps ultimately for the construction of quantum computers."

More recently his research group has built a single-atom laser and observed photon blockade, where a first photon in an atom-cavity system blocks the passage of a second photon.

Kimble chose cavity quantum electrodynamics as one of the few experimentally viable systems in which "the intrinsic quantum mechanical coupling dominates losses due to dissipation."

Berthold Leibinger Stiftung is a private nonprofit foundation. The science and research portion of its mandate focuses on honoring and promoting innovation in laser technology.


Written by: John Avery

Contact: Jill Perry (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

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Written by Deborah Williams-Hedges