Thursday 8 December 2016
Professor Alain Aspect firmly believes we’ve entered the second quantum revolution—an age which will see radical technological developments across industries, from manufacturing and measurement, to energy generation and computing.
During the first quantum revolution, we discovered the rules that govern the quantum realm, and how they differ from classical physics. Those discoveries, from 1950 onward, led to the invention of lasers, transistors and optical fibres.
Now in the second revolution we’re taking these rules and using them to develop new technologies in communications, measurement, and computing. Today at the Physics Congress, Alain Aspect from Institut d’Optique Graduate School will review how we got to where we are today, and share his hopes for what’s next.
The renowned quantum physicist is one of the main drivers behind the Quantum Manifesto, which predicated the European Commission’s one billion euro Quantum Flagship. Announced in May, the Flagship’s aim is to develop quantum technologies over the next 10 years to place Europe at the forefront of the second quantum revolution.
Their remit is to partner with industry to bring the technology to the marketplace, and the investment is a strong sign that this technology is on the cusp of being realised.
Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel and other big tech companies are also investing in the second quantum revolution.
“What we are doing is moving the technology out of academia and theory and into the development of new technology and products,” says Alain.
Whilst quantum computers are unlikely to be commonplace in the next 10 years, the race to develop the first useful and profitable quantum computers and other technology is now well and truly on.
Australia is one of the world leaders in the field Alain admits, but the rivalry is friendly “we’re all working together towards the same goal,” says Alain, who was on the Scientific Advisory Board of Australian Quantum Atom Optics, and now advises ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQuS).
The Big Bell test
Alain also has some fame in the world of physics for the Bell Tests he conducted in the 1980s. His team delivered the first strong null result proving that there are no ‘hidden variables’ allowing quantum particles to co-ordinate their actions. The result, confirmed conclusively in 2015, forced physicists to accept that quantum particles, separated by large distances remain instantaneously connected, a clear refutation of Einstein.
Last week, the Bell Test became a citizen science project. A crucial part of the test is the generation of random numbers—which during the Big Bell Test were sourced from over 100,000 people worldwide who were playing a computer game and fed back into labs around the world for their experiments.
“The results of the Bell Tests were largely in agreement with previous experiments,” says Martin Ringbaur from the University of Queensland. But in terms of outreach it has been a great success in engaging the public with quantum physics.
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