Anton Zeilinger

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Anton Zeilinger
Zeilinger with sculpture by Voss-Andreae.jpg
photo: J. Godany (2021)
Born (1945-05-20) 20 May 1945 (age 76)
Known for Quantum teleportation
Bell test experiments
Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester experiment
Greenberger–Horne–Zeilinger state
GHZ experiment
Superdense coding
Awards Klopsteg Memorial Award (2004)
Isaac Newton Medal (2007)
Wolf Prize in Physics (2010)
Scientific career
Fields Physicist
Institutions University of Vienna
Technical University of Munich
Technical University of Vienna
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Collège de France
Merton College, Oxford
Doctoral advisor Helmut Rauch
Doctoral students Pan Jianwei [1]
Thomas Jennewein [2]

Anton Zeilinger (German: [ˈtsaɪlɪŋɐ] ; born 20 May 1945) is an Austrian quantum physicist who in 2008 received the Inaugural Isaac Newton Medal of the Institute of Physics (UK) for "his pioneering conceptual and experimental contributions to the foundations of quantum physics, which have become the cornerstone for the rapidly-evolving field of quantum information". Zeilinger is professor of physics at the University of Vienna and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information IQOQI at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Most of his research concerns the fundamental aspects and applications of quantum entanglement.



Anton Zeilinger, born 1945 in Austria, has held positions at the Technical University of Vienna and the University of Innsbruck. He has held visiting positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), at Humboldt University in Berlin, Merton College, Oxford and the Collège de France (Chaire Internationale) in Paris. Zeilinger's awards include the Wolf Prize in Physics (2010), the Inaugural Isaac Newton Medal of the IOP (2007) and the King Faisal International Prize (2005). He is a member of seven Scientific Academies. Anton Zeilinger is currently Professor of Physics at the University of Vienna and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences to whose Presidency he was recently elected. [3] Since 2006, Zeilinger is the vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, an ambitious project initiated by Zeilinger's proposal. In 2009, he founded the International Academy Traunkirchen [4] which is dedicated to the support of gifted students in science and technology. He is a fan of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, going so far as to name his sailboat 42. [5]


Zeilinger works in the foundations of quantum mechanics. He discovered, together with Greenberger and Horne, novel counter-intuitive features of three- and four-particle states. He was the first, with his team, to realize those in experiment. This opened the field of multi-particle interference and multi-particle quantum correlations. Using the methods developed there, he performed the first quantum teleportation of an independent qubit. This was followed by the realization of entanglement swapping, a most interesting concept where an entangled state is teleported.

This work was followed by numerous tests of Bell’s inequalities, including a Cosmic Bell Test. Other fundamental experiments concerned Leggett’s nonlocal realistic theories, tests of quantum contextuality in Kochen-Specker experiments, and experiments on nonlocal Schrödinger steering with entangled states.

Many of these results became relevant in the development of quantum information technology, where he also performed pioneering experiments. His experiment on quantum dense coding was the first using entanglement to demonstrate a primitive, not possible in classical physics. He also realized the first entanglement-based quantum cryptography experiment and later, quantum communication over increasing distances and, implementing higher-dimensional states, with increasing information capacity. Possible applications also include one-way quantum computation and blind quantum computation. Among his further contributions to the experimental and conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics are matter wave interference all the way from neutrons via atoms to macromolecules such as fullerenes.

Quantum teleportation

Most widely known is his first realization of quantum teleportation of an independent qubit. [6] He later expanded this work to developing a source for freely propagating teleported qubits [7] and quantum teleportation over 144 kilometers between two Canary Islands. [8] Quantum teleportation is an essential concept in many quantum information protocols. Besides its role for the transfer of quantum information, it is also considered as an important possible mechanism for building gates within quantum computers.

Entanglement swapping – teleportation of entanglement

Entanglement swapping is the teleportation of an entangled state. After its proposal, [9] entanglement swapping has first been realized experimentally by Zeilinger's group in 1998. [10] It was then applied to carry out a delayed-choice entanglement swapping test. [11] Entanglement swapping is the crucial ingredient for quantum repeaters which are expected to connect future quantum computers.

Entanglement beyond two qubits – GHZ-states and their realizations

Anton Zeilinger contributed decisively to the opening up of the field of multi-particle entanglement. [12] In 1990, he was the first with Daniel Greenberger and Michael Horne to work on entanglement of more than two qubits. [13] The resulting GHZ theorem [14] (see Greenberger–Horne–Zeilinger state) is fundamental for quantum physics, as it provides the most succinct contradiction between local realism and the predictions of quantum mechanics.

GHZ states were the first instances of multi-particle entanglement ever investigated. [15] Surprisingly, multi-particle entangled states exhibit qualitatively different properties compared to two-particle entanglement. In the 1990s, it became the main goal of Zeilinger's research to realize such GHZ states in the laboratory, which required the development of many new methods and tools.

Finally, in 1999, he succeeded in providing the first experimental evidence of entanglement beyond two particles [16] and also the first test of quantum nonlocality for GHZ states. [17] He also was the first to realize that there are different classes of higher-dimensional entangled states and proposed W-states. Today, multi-particle states have become an essential workhorse in quantum computation and thus, GHZ-states have even become an individual entry in the PACS code.

Quantum communication, quantum cryptography, quantum computation

In 1996, Anton Zeilinger with his group realized hyper-dense coding. [18] There, one can encode into one qubit more than one classical bit of information. This was the first realization of a quantum information protocol with an entangled state, where one is able to achieve something impossible with classical physics.

In 1998 (published in 2000), [19] his group was the first to implement quantum cryptography with entangled photons. Zeilinger's group is now also developing a quantum cryptography prototype in collaboration with industry.

He then also applied quantum entanglement to optical quantum computation, where in 2005, [20] he performed the first implementation of one-way quantum computation. This is a protocol based on quantum measurement as proposed by Knill, Laflamme and Milburn. [21] Most recently, it has been shown [22] that one-way quantum computation can be used to implement blind quantum computing. This solves a problem in Cloud computing, namely that, whatever algorithm a client employs on a quantum server is completely unknown, i.e. blind, to the operator of the server.

The experiments of Zeilinger and his group on the distribution of entanglement over large distances began with both free-space and fiber-based quantum communication and teleportation between laboratories located on the different sides of the river Danube. [23] This was then extended to larger distances across the city of Vienna [24] and over 144 km between two Canary Islands, resulting in a successful demonstration that quantum communication with satellites is feasible. His dream is to put sources of entangled light onto a satellite in orbit. [5] A first step was achieved during an experiment at the Italian Matera Laser Ranging Observatory. [25]

Further novel entangled states

With his group, Anton Zeilinger made many contributions to the realization of novel entangled states. The source for polarization-entangled photon pairs developed with Paul Kwiat  [ de ] when he was a PostDoc in Zeilinger's group [26] became a workhorse in many laboratories worldwide. The first demonstration of entanglement of orbital angular momentum of photons [27] opened up a new burgeoning field of research in many laboratories.

Macroscopic quantum superposition

Zeilinger is also interested to extend quantum mechanics into the macroscopic domain. In the early 1990s, he started experiments in the field of atom optics. He developed a number of ways to coherently manipulate atomic beams, many of which, like the coherent energy shift of an atomic De Broglie wave upon diffraction at a time-modulated light wave, have become cornerstones of today's ultracold atom experiments. In 1999, Zeilinger abandoned atom optics for experiments with very complex and massive macro-molecules – fullerenes. The successful demonstration of quantum interference for these C60 and C70 molecules [28] in 1999 opened up a very active field of research. Key results include the most precise quantitative study to date of decoherence by thermal radiation and by atomic collisions and the first quantum interference of complex biological macro-molecules. This work is continued by Markus Arndt  [ de ].

In 2005, Zeilinger with his group again started a new field, the quantum physics of mechanical cantilevers. The group was the first – in the year 2006 along with work from Heidmann in Paris and Kippenberg in Garching – to demonstrate experimentally the self-cooling of a micro-mirror by radiation pressure, that is, without feedback. [29] That phenomenon can be seen as a consequence of the coupling of a high-entropy mechanical system with a low-entropy radiation field. This work is now continued independently by Markus Aspelmeyer.

Using orbital angular momentum states, he was able to demonstrate entanglement of angular momentum up to 300 ħ. [30]

Further fundamental tests

Zeilinger's program of fundamental tests of quantum mechanics is aimed at implementing experimental realizations of many non-classical features of quantum physics for individual systems. In 1998, [31] he provided the final test of Bell's inequality closing the communication loophole by using superfast random number generators. His group also realized the first Bell inequality experiment implementing the freedom-of-choice condition [32] and provided the first realization of a Bell test without the fair sampling assumption for photons. [33] All these experiments are not only of fundamental interest, but also important for quantum cryptography. In 2015, at the same time as the group of Ronald Hanson at Delft University of Technology and the group of Sae-Woo Nam at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Zeilinger’s group closed the locality and detection loopholes in Bell experiments, [34] thereby corroborating quantum mechanics and ruling out theories that satisfy local causality and providing definitive proof that quantum cryptography can be unconditionally secure.

Among the further fundamental tests he performed the most notable one is his test of a large class of nonlocal realistic theories proposed by Leggett. [35] The group of theories excluded by that experiment can be classified as those which allow reasonable subdivision of ensembles into sub-ensembles. It goes significantly beyond Bell's theorem. While Bell showed that a theory which is both local and realistic is at variance with quantum mechanics, Leggett considered nonlocal realistic theories where the individual photons are assumed to carry polarization. The resulting Leggett inequality was shown to be violated in the experiments of the Zeilinger group. [36]

In an analogous way, his group showed that even quantum systems where entanglement is not possible exhibit non-classical features which cannot be explained by underlying non-contextual probability distributions. [37] It is expected that these latter experiments will also open up novel ways for quantum information.

Neutron interferometry

Anton Zeilinger's earliest work is perhaps his least known. His work on neutron interferometry has provided an important foundation for his later research achievements. As a member of the group of his thesis supervisor, Helmut Rauch, at the Technical University of Vienna, Zeilinger participated in a number of neutron interferometry experiments at the Institut Laue–Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble. His very first such experiment confirmed a fundamental prediction of quantum mechanics, the sign change of a spinor phase upon rotation. [38] This was followed by the first experimental realization of coherent spin superposition of matter waves. He continued his work in neutron interferometry at MIT with C.G. Shull (Nobel Laureate), focusing specifically on dynamical diffraction effects of neutrons in perfect crystals which are due to multi-wave coherent superposition. After his return to Europe, he built up an interferometer for very cold neutrons which preceded later similar experiments with atoms. The fundamental experiments there included a most precise test of the linearity of quantum mechanics and a beautiful double-slit diffraction experiment with only one neutron at a time in the apparatus. Actually, in that experiment, while one neutron was registered, the next neutron still resided in its Uranium nucleus waiting for fission to happen.

Then, as a professor at the University of Innsbruck, Zeilinger started experiments on entangled photons, as the low phase space density of neutrons produced by reactors precluded their use in such experiments. In all his career, from TU Vienna through Innsbruck and back to the University of Vienna, Zeilinger has had a most salubrious effect on the work of his colleagues and competitors alike, always noting connections and extensions to be investigated and unstintingly sharing remarks that have enhanced the field of quantum mechanics from foundational to purely applied work.

Honours and awards

International prizes and awards

Austrian prizes and awards

Further distinctions

Distinguished lectureships

Zeilinger has been interviewed by Morgan Freeman in season 2 of Through the Wormhole .

Related Research Articles

Quantum teleportation is a technique for transferring quantum information from a sender at one location to a receiver some distance away. While teleportation is commonly portrayed in science fiction as a means to transfer physical objects from one location to the next, quantum teleportation only transfers quantum information. Moreover, the sender may not know the location of the recipient, and does not know which particular quantum state will be transferred.

Quantum entanglement Correlation between measurements of quantum subsystems, even when spatially separated

Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a group of particles are generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated by a large distance. The topic of quantum entanglement is at the heart of the disparity between classical and quantum physics: entanglement is a primary feature of quantum mechanics lacking in classical mechanics.

In Bell tests, there may be problems of experimental design or set-up that affect the validity of the experimental findings. These problems are often referred to as "loopholes". See the article on Bell's theorem for the theoretical background to these experimental efforts. The purpose of the experiment is to test whether nature is best described using a local hidden variable theory or by the quantum entanglement theory of quantum mechanics.

A Bell test, also known as Bell inequality test or Bell experiment, is a real-world physics experiment designed to test the theory of quantum mechanics in relation to Albert Einstein's concept of local realism. The experiments test whether or not the real world satisfies local realism, which requires the presence of some additional local variables to explain the behavior of particles like photons and electrons. To date, all Bell tests have found that the hypothesis of local hidden variables is inconsistent with the way that physical systems behave.

Alain Aspect French physicist

Alain Aspect is a French physicist noted for his experimental work on quantum entanglement.

A delayed-choice quantum eraser experiment, first performed by Yoon-Ho Kim, R. Yu, S. P. Kulik, Y. H. Shih and Marlan O. Scully, and reported in early 1999, is an elaboration on the quantum eraser experiment that incorporates concepts considered in Wheeler's delayed-choice experiment. The experiment was designed to investigate peculiar consequences of the well-known double-slit experiment in quantum mechanics, as well as the consequences of quantum entanglement.

John Rarity British physicist

John G. Rarity is professor of optical communication systems in the department of electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Bristol, a post he has held since 1 January 2003. He is an international expert on quantum optics, quantum cryptography and quantum communication using single photons and entanglement. Rarity is a member of the Quantum Computation and Information group and quantum photonics at the University of Bristol.

Rainer Blatt

Rainer Blatt is a German-Austrian experimental physicist. His research centres on the areas of quantum optics and quantum information. He and his team performed one of the first experiments to teleport atoms, the other was done at NIST in Boulder Colorado. The reports of both groups appeared back-to-back in Nature.

The one-way or measurement-based quantum computer (MBQC) is a method of quantum computing that first prepares an entangled resource state, usually a cluster state or graph state, then performs single qubit measurements on it. It is "one-way" because the resource state is destroyed by the measurements.

In quantum information and quantum computing, a cluster state is a type of highly entangled state of multiple qubits. Cluster states are generated in lattices of qubits with Ising type interactions. A cluster C is a connected subset of a d-dimensional lattice, and a cluster state is a pure state of the qubits located on C. They are different from other types of entangled states such as GHZ states or W states in that it is more difficult to eliminate quantum entanglement in the case of cluster states. Another way of thinking of cluster states is as a particular instance of graph states, where the underlying graph is a connected subset of a d-dimensional lattice. Cluster states are especially useful in the context of the one-way quantum computer. For a comprehensible introduction to the topic see.

Markus Aspelmeyer is an Austrian quantum physicist.

Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information

The Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) is a member institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and was founded in November 2003, to create an Austrian research center for the newly developing fields of theoretical and experimental quantum optics and quantum information. A branch in Vienna joined the Stefan-Meyer-Institute at Boltzmanngasse 3 under the direction of Anton Zeilinger.

Daniel M. Greenberger is an American quantum physicist. He has been professor of physics at the City College of New York since 1964. He is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and—alongside Anton Zeilinger—founded the APS Topical Group on Quantum Information.

The John Stewart Bell Prize for Research on Fundamental Issues in Quantum Mechanics and their Applications was established in 2009, funded and managed by the University of Toronto, Centre for Quantum Information & Quantum Control (CQIQC). It is awarded every odd-numbered year, for significant contributions relating to the foundations of quantum mechanics and to the applications of these principles – this covers, but is not limited to, quantum information theory, quantum computation, quantum foundations, quantum cryptography, and quantum control. The selection committee has included Gilles Brassard, Peter Zoller, Alain Aspect, John Preskill, and Juan Ignacio Cirac Sasturain, in addition to previous winners Sandu Popescu, Michel Devoret, and Nicolas Gisin.

Pan Jianwei is a Chinese quantum physicist and university administrator known for his work in the field of quantum entanglement. In 2017, he has was named one of Nature's 10, which labelled him "Father of Quantum." He is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the World Academy of Sciences and Executive Vice President of the University of Science and Technology of China. He also serves as Vice Chairman of Jiusan Society, one of the minor political parties in China under the direct leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Nicolas Gisin

Nicolas Gisin is a Swiss physicist and professor at the University of Geneva working on quantum information and communication, as well as on the foundations of quantum mechanics. His work includes both experimental and theoretical physics. He contributed significant work on the fields of experimental quantum cryptography and long distance quantum communication in standard telecom optical fibres. He co-founded ID Quantique, a spin-off company that provides quantum-based technologies.

Thomas Jennewein is an Austrian physicist who conducts research in quantum communication and quantum key distribution. He has taught as an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Canada since 2009. He earned his PhD under Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna in 2002, during which time he performed experiments on Bell's inequality and cryptography with entangled photons. His current work at the Institute for Quantum Computing focuses on satellite-based free space quantum key distribution, with the goal of creating a global quantum network.

Rupert Ursin is an Austrian experimental physicist active in the field of quantum entanglement and communications. He is currently deputy director at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Marek Żukowski is a Polish theoretical physicist and lecturer at the University of Gdańsk. He specializes in quantum mechanics, his area of interest in particular concerns the Bell's theorem and quantum interferometry.

Michael A. Horne was an American quantum physicist, famous for his work on the foundations of quantum mechanics.


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  21. E. Knill, R. Laflamme & G. J. Milburn, A scheme for efficient quantum computation with linear optics, Nature 409, 46–52 (2001). Abstract.
  22. S. Barz, E. Kashefi, A. Broadbent, J. F. Fitzsimons, A. Zeilinger & P. Walther, Demonstration of Blind Quantum Computing, Science 20, 303–308 (2012). Abstract.
  23. Rupert Ursin; Thomas Jennewein; Markus Aspelmeyer; Rainer Kaltenbaek; Michael Lindenthal; Philip Walther; Anton Zeilinger (18 August 2004). "Quantum teleportation across the Danube". Nature. 430 (7002): 849. doi:10.1038/430849a. PMID   15318210. S2CID   4426035.
  24. Markus Aspelmeyer; Hannes R. Böhm; Tsewang Gyatso; Thomas Jennewein; Rainer Kaltenbaek; Michael Lindenthal; Gabriel Molina-Terriza; Andreas Poppe; Kevin Resch; Michael Taraba; Rupert Ursin; Philip Walther; Anton Zeilinger (1 August 2003). "Long-Distance Free-Space Distribution of Quantum Entanglement". Science. 301 (5633): 621–623. Bibcode:2003Sci...301..621A. doi:10.1126/science.1085593. PMID   12817085. S2CID   40583982.
  25. P. Villoresi, T. Jennewein, F. Tamburini, M. Aspelmeyer, C. Bonato, R. Ursin, C. Pernechele, V. Luceri, G. Bianco, A. Zeilinger & C. Barbieri,Experimental verification of the feasibility of a quantum channel between Space and Earth, New Journal of Physics 10, 033038 (2008). Highlight of New J. Phys. for 2008.
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  27. A. Mair, A. Vaziri, G. Weihs & A. Zeilinger, Entanglement of the orbital angular momentum states of photons, Nature 412 (6844), 313–316 (2001). Abstract.
  28. M. Arndt, O. Nairz, J. Voss-Andreae, C. Keller, G. van der Zouw & A. Zeilinger, Wave-particle duality of C60 molecules, Nature 401, 680–682 (1999). Abstract. Selected by the American Physical Society as a physics highlight of 1999.
  29. S. Gigan, H. R. Böhm, M. Paternostro, F. Blaser, G. Langer, J. B. Hertzberg, K. Schwab, D. Bäuerle, M. Aspelmeyer & A. Zeilinger, Self-cooling of a micro-mirror by radiation pressure, Nature 444, 67–70 (2006). Abstract. Selected as “Highlight of the recent literature” by Science (January 2007). Ranked as a highly cited paper by Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science, placing it in the 1% of the academic field of physics based on a highly cited threshold for the field and publication year.
  30. R. Fickler, R. Lapkiewicz, W. N. Plick, M. Krenn, C. Schäff, S. Ramelow & A. Zeilinger, Quantum entanglement of high angular momenta, Science 338, 640–643 (2012). Abstract. Selected as one of the top 10 breakthroughs of the year 2012 by IOP’s Physics World. Also featured in DPG’s Physik Journal. Ranked as a “highly cited paper” by Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science, placing it in the 1% of the academic field of physics based on a highly cited threshold for the field and publication year.
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  33. M. Giustina; A. Mech; S. Ramelow; B. Wittmann; J. Kofler; J. Beyer; A. Lita; B. Calkins; T. Gerrits; S.-W. Nam; R. Ursin; A. Zeilinger (2013). "Bell violation using entangled photons without the fair-sampling assumption". Nature. 497 (7448): 227–230. arXiv: 1212.0533 . Bibcode:2013Natur.497..227G. doi:10.1038/nature12012. PMID   23584590. S2CID   18877065.. Ranked as a “highly cited paper” by Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science, placing it in the 1% of the academic field of physics based on a highly cited threshold for the field and publication year.
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  36. S. Gröblacher, T. Paterek, R. Kaltenbaek, C. Brukner, M. Zukowski, M. Aspelmeyer & A. Zeilinger, An experimental test of non-local realism, Nature 446, 871–875 (2007). Abstract.
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