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ERC grant holder awarded Nobel Prize in physics

The European Research Council (ERC) acknowledged his potential in 2009 when it recognised him as a senior research leader and awarded him a grant for research into 'decoherence' of light in cavities. Now the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has also acknowledged Professor Ser...

The European Research Council (ERC) acknowledged his potential in 2009 when it recognised him as a senior research leader and awarded him a grant for research into 'decoherence' of light in cavities. Now the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has also acknowledged Professor Serge Haroche's work, awarding him the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics. French researcher Professor Haroche shares the award with his American colleague David J. Wineland for 'ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems'. Professor Haroche's ERC-funded work on light in cavities is furthering understanding of quantum steady states - how to create them and how to maintain access to them. Running until 2015, the DECLIC ('Exploring the decoherence of light in cavities') project was set up to explore the dynamics of fields trapped in cavities, and to study their decoherence under various perspectives. It will implement novel ways to generate non-classical states with large photon numbers stored in one cavity, or non-locally split between two. The team has already been able to interact with photons without destroying them, and was then able to repeat this quantum-non-destructive measurement at a high rate on a prepared photon, leading it to a 'frozen' state. The DECLIC project has thus built the first ever 'closed quantum feedback loop' able to maintain a quantum system in a steady, non-classical state. This is a prerequisite for putting quantum features to practical use, for example in quantum computers. The project received EUR 2.5 million from the ERC in the form of an ERC Advanced Grant. Launched in 2007, the ERC is a pioneering component of the EU's Seventh Research Programme (FP7). It has a budget of EUR 7.5 billion for the 2007-to-2013 period; grants are awarded to early-career and independent excellent researchers as well as senior research leaders such as Professor Haroche. The Council's bottom-up approach means that researchers can apply for a grant for any field of research. This is not the first time that an ERC grant holder has received a Nobel Prize: Professor Konstantin Novoselov was recognised in 2010 for his work on graphene. Three previous winners have also since been awarded an ERC grant: Professor James Heckman (2000, Economics), Professor Theodor Hänsch (2005, Physics) and Professor Jean-Marie Lehn (1987, Chemistry). Having two further Nobel Prize winners on its governing body further enhances the ERC's Nobel credentials. 'Today's announcement is affirmation of the ERC's investment in the most talented researchers across Europe, whose contributions are invaluable to science, and in the longer term to society at large, ' said ERC President, Professor Helga Nowotny, on 9 October. This impact is the reason why the Commission has proposed a significant boost to the ERC budget for the next EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, noted EU Research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. The programme is due to start in 2014. Professor Haroche is so far the second European to receive a Nobel Prize in 2012. British scientist Sir John Gurdon shares the prize in physiology or medicine with Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.For more information, please visit: European Research Council (ERC): http://erc.europa.eu Nobel Prize website: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lists/year/

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