I work with David Lucas, Andrew Steane and colleagues on high-precision experimental studies of quantum mechanics using trapped atomic ions.
The pioneers of quantum mechanics settled disputes about the emerging theory by appealing to “thought experiments” involving single atoms. These provided valuable insights, but at the time were as impossible as “raising an ichthyosaur in the zoo”, as Schrödinger once put it. Since then, many have become a reality; we can now study single atoms at rest in a near-perfect vacuum with an incredible level of detail. This has helped to answer basic questions, such as whether quantum jumps actually happen, and allowed many of the most precise tests of fundamental physical theories.
My research is focused on understanding the challenges involved in building a quantum computer. This is a device that exploits the laws of quantum mechanics to perform tasks that would be too complex for any ordinary computer, no matter how powerful. To prevent loss of fragile quantum information this requires a level of control over the quantum mechanics of the system that pushes current technology to its limits. My research leads the world in the level with which this control can be achieved.