STOCKHOLM -- Scientists Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the United States on Tuesday shared the 2012 Nobel Physics Prize for "groundbreaking" research on the interaction between light and matter in the field of quantum optics.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the two have "opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them."
The Nobel Committee said the two researchers, independently of each other, had managed to "measure and control very fragile quantum states, which were thought inaccessible for direct observation."
"The new methods allow them to examine, control and count the particles," it added.
Their findings in the future could lead to new superfast computers and new clocks more precise than current cesium-based atomic clocks.
Mr. Wineland, with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado at Boulder, managed to trap electrically charged atoms, or ions, and used light particles, or photons, to control and measure the ions. Mr. Haroche controlled and measured photons by sending atoms through a trap, the academy said.
The physics prize is worth $1.2 million. It was the second of the annual Nobel prizes to be announced. On Monday, John B Gurdon of Britain and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan, shared the medicine prize for research into how cells and organisms develop, which may lead to new treatments for diseases.
The Nobel prize for chemistry is due today, followed by literature Thursday and peace on Friday. The prizes were endowed by Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel.
The Nobel for economic sciences, a prize not endowed by Nobel and awarded since 1968, is due to be announced Monday.
Last year, the physics prize was awarded to Saul Perlmutter of the United States, Brian Schmidt -- who holds U.S. and Australian citizenship -- and Adam Riess of the United States for observations of the accelerating expansion of the universe.