Manipulating Strongly Interacting Individual Quanta: Photon Molecules and 51 Atomic Qubits

By Vladan Vuletic

Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

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Recent years have seen a remarkable development in our ability to manipulate matter and light at a quantum level. Quantum simulators with individual trapped atoms are becoming a reality, and quantum computing is on the verge of becoming experimentally viable. Of particular interest are tunable strong interactions between atoms that can be used to experimentally implement and control entangled many-body states. Highly excited, metastable atomic Rydberg states can be used to implement controllable long-distance interactions between individual quanta. I will discuss two applications: By coherently coupling light to Rydberg excitations in a dense atomic medium, we have realized a highly nonlinear optical medium where the interactions between individual photons are so strong that two photons can even form a bound state. I will also discuss the use of Rydberg interactions to realize a many-atom quantum simulator with up to 51 individually trapped atoms, where we have observed a quantum phase transition towards a state with antiferromagnetic order, as well as long-lived many-body oscillations after a sudden quench.


Vladan Vuletić Professor Vladan Vuletić was born in Pec, Yugoslavia, and educated in Germany. In 1992, he earned the Physics Diploma with highest honors from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and in 1997, a Ph.D. in Physics (summa cum laude) from the same institution.

While a postdoctoral researcher with the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, Professor Vuletić accepted a Lynen Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997. In 2000, he was appointed an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at Stanford and in June 2003 accepted an Assistant Professorship in Physics at MIT. He was promoted to Associate Professor in July 2004. He was promoted to Full Professor in July 2011.

Recent awards include a 2003–04 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a 2012 Fellowship of the APS.

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  • Vladan Vuletic (2019), "Manipulating Strongly Interacting Individual Quanta: Photon Molecules and 51 Atomic Qubits,"

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