Superconducting Quantum Bits Leads to Agilent Europhysics Prize

6/17/2004 - Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) announced that the European Physical Society (EPS) has awarded the 2004 Agilent Europhysics Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Condensed Matter Physics to four scientists for their breakthrough work in superconducting quantum bits, a major step toward achieving the goal of quantum computation. The awardees are Michel Devoret, Daniel Esteve, Hans Mooij and Yasunobu Nakamura.

For years, scientists have dreamed of a computer with the ability to quickly solve problems of enormous complexity by exploiting the quantum behavior of very small and cold objects.

"While the prospect of practical quantum computing is still decades away, this is an important step toward the realization of that dream," said Jim Hollenhorst, director of Molecular Technology at Agilent Labs. "These scientists have shown how the fundamental building block of such a quantum computer, a 'qubit,' can be realized in an electrical circuit."

For almost 30 years, the Europhysics Prize has been given to leading scientists in nearly every important area of condensed matter physics. It is one of the most prestigious awards given by the EPS, with eight past recipients winning the Nobel Prize in physics or chemistry subsequent to receiving the Europhysics Prize.

Agilent sponsors and funds the Europhysics Prize based on a commitment to the belief that fundamental advances in science have the potential to revolutionize its business. With a cash award of 51,000 Swiss francs, the prize recognizes scientific excellence in basic or applied research in the physics of solids and liquids, with particular emphasis on recent work that leads to advances in the fields of electronics, electrical and materials engineering. A committee appointed by the EPS, which includes one representative from Agilent Laboratories, selects the recipients.

Scientific Background
In defiance of common sense, quantum systems can exist in a superposition of seemingly incompatible states. For example, a molecule can have one of its atoms in more than one position at the same time. Physicists have shown that a computer could carry out many calculations simultaneously by building it out of "quantum bits," or "qubits." Like a classical bit, a qubit can exist in two states -- "1" or "0." Thus, a set of qubits can be used to represent a binary number. Unlike a classical bit, however, each qubit can be in a superposition of the "0" and "1" states, and a set of qubits can represent an infinitude of numbers simultaneously. If enough qubits could be made, controlled and forced to interact in the right way, calculations of great complexity could be done quickly.

For years, attempts at demonstrating qubits have met with varying degrees of success. The prize was given for work showing that macroscopic objects can behave as qubits. This was accomplished by exploiting the amazing properties of superconductors, materials that lose all resistance to the flow of electric current at low temperatures.

The work of Devoret, Esteve, Mooij and Nakamura has not only increased the understanding of the underlying phenomena of quantum states but also demonstrated that a quantum bit can be created and controlled in a macroscopic circuit, not unlike circuits that are currently used to build today's computers. More information about the prize is available at

Agilent's Philanthropy
Agilent's philanthropy programs, which funded the award, sponsor equipment grants and inquiry into research and technologies that address Agilent's strategic focus in the areas of electronics, telecommunications and life sciences. Information about the philanthropy programs is available on the Web at and

About Agilent Laboratories
Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Agilent Labs draws on the talents of more than 300 researchers and support staff. It conducts applied research in communications, electronics, the life sciences and measurement; fundamental research in bioscience, fiber optics, materials, microelectronics, micromechanical systems and optoelectronics; and basic research. Agilent Labs is focused on driving growth and profit for the company's businesses through technology innovation. Information about Agilent Laboratories is available at

About Agilent Technologies
Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is a global technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company's 28,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenue of $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2003. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at

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