Credit: Uni Innsbruck

Today, Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller have been awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, 1st Class. With their groundbreaking research, the two scientists are considered pioneers in their field and have laid essential foundations for the development of new quantum technologies such as quantum computers.

 Representing the Austrian President, Rector Tilmann Märk today presented the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art 1st Class to theoretical physicist Peter Zoller and experimental physicist Rainer Blatt at the University of Innsbruck's auditorium. "University professors Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller have made numerous important contributions to physics over the past decades. They are regarded worldwide as pioneers in the field of quantum optics and quantum information, and their work is widely cited," Rector Märk said at the award ceremony. "The two laureates have contributed quite significantly to the fact that the University of Innsbruck is perceived worldwide as an outstanding center of quantum physics and that the best minds in the field strive here to pursue new ideas together with colleagues in Innsbruck. These awards recognize exceptional scientific careers and outstanding individuals of whom the University of Innsbruck can be very proud." The laudatory speech was given by quantum physicist Markus Aspelmeyer from the University of Vienna. The award ceremony was attended by personalities from politics, business and science, including ÖAW President Heinz Faßmann, Provincial Minister Annette Leja and Mayor Georg Willi. The ceremony was musically accompanied by members of the Haller Stadtpfeifer.

Jointly successful

Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller were appointed professors at the university in the mid-1990s and, together with their colleagues in the field, have built up a globally recognised center of quantum research in just a few years. With the concept for a quantum computer based on an ion trap, developed at that time together with Ignacio Cirac, the physicists laid the foundation for the development of this future technology. Since then, the first quantum computers have been realized in the laboratory and today the first devices are already commercially available. From the fundamental research of quantum physics, many other ideas for quantum technologies have emerged, which will change wide areas of our lives in the future. Both physicists are celebrating their 70th birthdays this year and continue to work as university professors at the University of Innsbruck and at the same time are associated with the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences as scientific directors. Together with Thomas Monz, they have established the spin-off company Austrian Alpine Technologies (AQT), which has developed and now markets the first commercial quantum computer "Made in Austria".

Rainer Blatt: Quantum computing pioneer

Rainer Blatt was born on September 8, 1952, in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. He has performed pioneering experiments in the fields of precision spectroscopy, quantum metrology, and quantum information. Blatt and his team were the first to transfer quantum information from one atom to another in a fully controlled manner ("teleportation"). He is also credited with the creation of the first "quantum byte." Meanwhile, his team routinely works with quantum computers with 20 to 50 quantum bits, performs quantum simulations, and demonstrates the crucial steps for successful error correction in quantum computers. For his achievements, Rainer Blatt has been awarded the Stern-Gerlach Medal, the Micius Prize, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Madrid, among others. He is a member of several scientific academies, such as the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Peter Zoller: Mastermind and networker

Peter Zoller, born in Innsbruck on September 16, 1952, is a theorist who has written important papers on the interaction of laser light and atoms. In addition to fundamental developments in quantum optics, he has succeeded in particular in bridging the gap to quantum information and solid-state physics. Zoller's ideas and concepts receive widespread attention in the scientific community, and his work has been cited over 70,000 times. Peter Zoller has received some of the most prestigious scientific awards in the world, such as the Wolf Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, and the Max Planck Medal. Zoller is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and numerous other scientific academies, and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Amsterdam and the University of Colorado, USA.