Juan Ignacio Cirac
Wolf Prize Laureate in Physics 2013
Juan Ignacio Cirac
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Germany
“for groundbreaking theoretical contributions to quantum information processing, quantum optics and the physics of quantum gases”.
Juan Ignacio Cirac and Peter Zoller are undoubtedly recognized as one of the most prominent theorists in quantum optics, quantum information science and the theory of quantum gases. Their impact on these fields of research cannot be overestimated and is outstanding by all means used to evaluate them.
Among their numerous common works, two specific works stand alone and opened new fields of research. In 1995, Cirac and Zoller proposed a model for a quantum computer, which could be practically implemented with the help of trapped ions. The very concrete nature of their proposal led numerous groups worldwide to successful experiments and has inspired many researchers both theorists and experimentalists. Such a quantum computer would be able to solve problems currently beyond the abilities of classical computers, such as the factorization of large numbers, which currently requires exponentially large computing time.
Their second outstanding contribution came as an outcome of the realization of gaseous Bose-Einstein condensates. They proposed to use such cold atoms as a general versatile toolbox to probe new regimes of many-body physics and to simulate condensed matter problems such as strongly correlated electronic systems. In their most famous work, Cirac and Zoller showed that an optical lattice can simulate a tight binding regime where the on-site interaction energy becomes comparable to the tunneling energy between neighboring sites. This paper had a tremendous impact and was soon followed by experimental realization of this quantum phase transition from a superfluid to a Mott insulator. Since then, a whole new interdisciplinary community has emerged exploring other condensed matter problems such as e.g. superconductivity, quantum magnetism, Quantum Hall effects, and Anderson localization. There is no doubt that these quantum simulators using cold atoms, will and already have had a huge impact on the whole fields of quantum physics, condensed matter physics and material science.