Ronald Hanson

In the legendary science fiction film Star Trek Captain Kirk is teleported home from far away in the universe by his chief engineer 'Scotty'. Physicists, including Ronald Hanson, have been trying to do something vaguely similar. 'Quantum teleportation' is an experiment by which information is transferred without the use of sound, light or any other form of energy.

About the laureate

Ronald Hanson (1976) studied applied physics in Groningen and undertook research in Leiden and at the Hitachi Advanced Research Labs in Tokyo. He received his doctorate and worked in Delft and then spent time at the University of California in Santa Barbara. He is now Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Professor of Quantum Physics at Delft. In addition to an Ammodo KNAW Award he has also received a NWO Vidi grant and an ERC Starting Grant. Hanson is an alumnus of the Young KNAW.

'Beam me up, Scotty!'

Quantum Physics is an area which goes beyond everyone’s wildest imagination. It is concerned with a world where something is both a particle and a beam of light, or exists in two places at once.
Some consequences of quantum physics theory even go beyond Albert Einstein’s comprehension. For example the concept of 'quantum entanglement': two electrons in different places whose fate is intertwined so closely that when something happens to one electron, at the exact same time the opposite will happen to its entangled brother.
According to Einstein this sort of ‘spooky action at a distance’ was impossible, because information would travel faster than light.
To produce evidence that quantum entanglement actually does exist, and can be used to transfer information in super-fast quantum computers, is one of the biggest challenges in elementary physics. Ronald Hanson and his research group are in a race for first place with other international scientists.
In 2014 he took a first step towards the proof in an experiment using entangled electrons three meters apart. In 2015 came definitive evidence in a trial in which two electrons at a distance of 1.3 kilometers were shown to be entangled.
The teleportation of matter or people, as happened to Captain Kirk, is not going to happen. But it can happen with information. And that knowledge could have major consequences.

Hanson: 'Quantum mechanics was very successful in the last century, but physicists are still debating over fundamental aspects of the theory. Only recently have we been able to research such aspects using quantum mechanical experiments on the scale of the ‘normal’ world. Our successful trial involving entangled electrons at a distance of more than a kilometer was a good example of this. The Ammodo KNAW Award enabled me to take further steps in that direction. I want to try to entangle electrons in multiple diamonds so as to construct a quantum network. Ultimately, using this quantum network I want to examine whether physical influences spread faster than light. I also want to see if we can send information securely without any assumption about how our equipment works. Theoretically it should be possible, but in practice it hasn’t yet worked.'