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The 2011 Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics

Awarded January 5, 2011, at the 41st Winter Colloquium on the Physics of Quantum Electronics.

Ron Folman, Ben-Gurion University

For pioneering contributions to the development of the atom chip and for the application of material science to atom optics.


Ron Folman was born in 1963, in Tel-Aviv, Israel. He has been with Ben-Gurion University since 2003 and works on both theory and experiment.

Ron started his academic career rather late after spending quite a number of years as a jet pilot, as a volunteer teacher in an impoverished town in the middle of the desert, and as a human rights activist. His BSc was in the Open University. He did his MSc at the Weizmann Institute of Science, studying phenomenological effects in Quark-Gluon-Plasma. He then moved on for his PhD to search for the Higgs Boson at CERN (home institute still Weizmann). Ron changed direction to quantum optics when he was invited for a Post Doc with Anton Zeilinger. He later became a European Marie Curie Fellow in Heidelberg with Joerg Schmiedmayer until he joined Ben-Gurion where he built an atom chip laboratory (

From early on, Ron was interested in the foundations of quantum mechanics and quantum optics. His first related work was to suggest a way to search for non-local hidden variables utilizing high energy data from CERN. He then went on to realize the experiment. He has studied fundamental topics in quantum mechanics such as observing the difference between pure decoherence and thermalization, time-reversal symmetry in interferometry, probing the phase of a superposition with an external particle, how noise is formed by the environment and how it couples and affects the quantum system. He has shown, for example, how low coherence beams of atoms may be utilized for highly sensitive interferometry.

On the other extreme, he has devoted considerable effort to the studying of material engineering and has made novel connections between material engineering and quantum optics. One such connection which is at the focus of Ron’s work is to the theory of decoherence, so that environments, such as that imposed by the atom chip, may be less harmful to the quantum system they host. For example, he has discovered that by using anisotropic materials, surface induced decoherence of atomic spin states may be suppressed by orders of magnitude even at room temperature. For this, his team has received the Material Research Society award. He has also designed miniature light resonators as a means for a sensitive non-destructive measurement of the quantum state.

Ron was one of those who developed the concept of the atom chip, and the name was coined in one of his papers on the topic. He has devoted considerable effort in this direction in the past decade in order to help realize a tool which will enable deeper experimental insight into the quantum realm.

In Ben-Gurion University Ron established the first nano-fabrication facility of its kind with dedicated expertise in chips for quantum optics, hosting quantum particles such as neutral atoms, ions, molecules, photons and electrons, and combinations thereof ( The facility was built to develop the necessary technology to enable the miniaturization, scaling up and integration required for quantum devices for scientific study and applications, and is serving laboratories around the world. One of the chips fabricated by Ron enabled, through the use of cold atoms for surface probing, the discovery of a previously unknown effect in electron transport.

In addition to the above, Ron has published studies on a wide variety of subjects such as the theory of Tachyon signals, carbon nano tubes, engineering of lasers and frequency locks and practical considerations for quantum computing.

Ron is also fond of science education and related topics and has designed a science museum, led a TV series on scientific effects and has taught philosophy of creativity in Israel’s art academy — Bezalel.

Bio provided by Prof. Folman, 2010.

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