Image: 1 x 1 millimetre quantum chip, produced by the FHV Dornbirn

[2013-02-05] The European Research Council (ERC) will support the production of a prototype of a new generation of ion traps. Worldwide scientists use these traps to study quantum systems and phenomena. Rainer Blatt’s team of quantum physicists in Innsbruck have been leading the development of these ultra-modern micro traps. Now they have received a grant from the ERC Proof of Concept program to fabricate them.

A lot of groundbreaking progress made in quantum physics has been achieved thanks to an invention made by German physicist and Nobel laureate Wolfgang Paul in the 1950s: the ion trap. In this device electrically charged particles can be trapped and, by using lasers and electromagnetic fields, controlled and manipulated with high accuracy. In the last few years scientists have been able to experimentally prove for the first time many of the characteristics of quantum systems proposed in quantum theory in these ion traps. They are also one of the most promising technologies for the realization of quantum computers and quantum simulators.

New micro structured traps

Recently these traps have been miniaturized and enhanced in manifold ways. Rainer Blatt’s research team from the Institute for Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck has further refined the concept for ion traps. They have developed a complex micro structured trap, where numerous ions can be trapped which then may interact with each other. “These ion traps look very much like a micro chip,” explains Rainer Blatt. “The production is extremely complex because a lot of electrodes have to be integrated and electrically attached. Therefore, we are looking for industry partners with whom we can make this technology marketable. ERC funding will support us in this undertaking.” The Proof of Concept grant of the European Research Council helps to bridge the gap between research and marketable innovation. This program supports investigators already benefitting from an ERC grant. They receive funding of up to €150,000 for developing and implementing their ideas. The University of Innsbruck already holds a patent for this new concept of ion traps. 


In 2008 the European Research Council awarded Rainer Blatt an Advanced Grant in the amount of 2.2 million Euros. Rainer Blatt has carried out groundbreaking experiments in the field of precision spectroscopy, quantum metrology and quantum information. Together with his team he was the first to transfer (or teleport) quantum information from one atom to another in a completely controlled manner. In addition, he realized the first quantum byte. Blatt’s research team still holds the world record in the controlled entanglement of 14 quantum bits. In the last few years Blatt has reached important milestones for successful error correction in quantum computers. He has also been very successful in constructing quantum simulators. For his achievements Rainer Blatt was awarded, among others, the Stern-Gerlach Medal and the Carl-Zeiss research prize.


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