Professor Lieven Vandersypen (Photography: Studio Oostrum)

NWO has announced that our Director Research Lieven Vandersypen is awarded the NWO Spinoza Prize. The Spinoza Prize is the highest award in Dutch Science. Each laureate receives 2.5 million euros, which they can spend on scientific research and activities related to knowledge utilisation.

Lieven Vandersypen (1972) is Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor of Quantum Nanoscience at TU Delft and Director Research at QuTech. Vandersypen enjoys a worldwide reputation for his pioneering work in quantum computing, the branch of science devoted to developing a computer based on the mysterious phenomena of quantum mechanics.

Quantum computers can resolve mathematical problems that are too complex for even the best supercomputers, such as calculating the properties of molecules and materials. Accordingly, they could help to solve major societal challenges in domains such as energy, security and health. Lieven Vandersypen aims to find uses for nature’s most fundamental properties and has been pursuing that goal by conducting cutting-edge experiments in the field of quantum computing for more than twenty years.

During his doctoral research, Vandersypen already realized a world-wide first: he used the so-called spins of atomic nuclei in molecules as quantum bits, or qubits, the building blocks of a quantum computer. Using seven qubits, he was able to break down the number 15 into the factors 3 and 5, thus demonstrating that making calculations with qubits is not only possible in theory, but also in practice.

After obtaining his PhD, Vandersypen switched his attention from nuclear spins in molecules to the spins of electrons in quantum dots, minuscule objects made from semiconductor materials that are governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. They resemble transistors in many respects and can therefore be used to integrate large numbers of qubits in a chip. He was the first to manipulate individual electron spins, with both magnetic and electric fields. He was later also the first to implement quantum algorithms on two of those electron spins and to show the quantum interaction between an electron spin and a microwave photon. He also demonstrated that the same quantum dots could be used to study exotic forms of magnetism.

Vandersypen is not only an outstanding scientist, but also a visionary who advances his discipline through collaboration with partners in science and other domains. For example, he was one of the founders of the research institute QuTech, a collaboration between TU Delft and TNO, and persuaded the American corporation Intel to enter into a long-term partnership with QuTech. Vandersypen is also one of the architects of the demonstration project Quantum Inspire, the first European online quantum computer with which users can perform calculations from home with two different types of qubits.

Vandersypen is a highly decorated scientist who has received a number of prestigious grants for his research projects, including a Vidi and a Vici grant and ERC Starting Investigator, Synergy and Advanced grants. He has considerable experience in leading large groups of researchers, engineers, technicians and support staff and is attracts outstanding international students, PhD candidates and postdocs. Ten former group members have already formed their own research groups at prestigious institutions around the world.

The Spinoza committee is convinced that with his qualities, vision and drive and his excellent network of academic and private partners, Lieven Vandersypen will be able to make the further major scientific and technological breakthroughs that are required to realise the full potential of the quantum computer in the coming years.

Source: NWO Spinoza
Also read this article from QuTech, Vandersypen is one of the founders of the research institute QuTech, a collaboration between TU Delft and TNO.