Serge Haroche of France and David J. Wineland of the United States earned the prize for "ground-breaking experimental methods that ensure measuring and manipulations of individual quantum systems," the academy said Tuesday.
The laureates opened the door to "a new era of experimentation" with quantum physics by demonstrating direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them, the academy's release said.
Haroche and Wineland, with their research groups, "have managed to measure and control very fragile quantum states, which were previously thought inaccessible for direct observation," the release said, allowing them to examine, control and count the particles.
Wineland's method traps electrically charged atoms, controlling and measuring them with photons, the academy said. Haroche controls and measures trapped photons, or particles of light, by sending atoms through a trap.
The scientists' ground-breaking methods enabled "the very first steps" toward building a new type of superfast computer based on quantum physics, the release said.
Haroche, born 1944 in Casablanca, Morocco, earned his doctorate in 1971 from the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. He is a professor at College de France and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.
Wineland, born 1944 in Milwaukee, earned his doctorate in 1970 from Harvard University. He is a group leader and a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
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