Aaron O'Connell

Experimental Quantum Physicist, ...
Belmont, CA, United States

About Aaron


Aaron D. O'Connell is the first person to experimentally induce and measure quantum effects in the motion of a humanmade object, bridging the quantum and classical worlds. Specifically, he created the world's first "quantum machine" by combining a mechanical resonator with a superconducting qubit, a device used for quantum computation. His "quantum machine" is the first visible object that moves quantum mechanically, and it was named the "Breakthrough of the Year" of 2010 by the journal Science.

TED Conference


Areas of Expertise

Physics, Experimental quantum computation, Resonators, Microfabrication, High-tech system design and assembly, Nanomechanics, Superconductivity, Microwave electronics, Cryogenic technology

An idea worth spreading

is that a quantum computer is exponentially more powerful than classical computer.

I'm passionate about

executing new ideas.

Talk to me about

the projects you feel so passionately about that you enjoy giving them your all.

My TED story

is shaping up to be pivotal.

Comments & conversations

Aaron O'Connell
Posted over 2 years ago
Aaron O'Connell: Making sense of a visible quantum object
Hi Jesse. Yup, I'm the original owner of the project. The guy in the video, Andrew Cleland, was one of my advisers in graduate school, along with John Martinis. The little paddle is the one I made while I was there. The dilution refrigerator shown in the video was built by John Martinis and others. There is another dilution refrigerator across the room that Andrew and I built. Check out the original Nature paper for the full list of authors. Attribution in the media is a funny thing. It wasn't like I was the only person in the world with this idea or anything, I was just the first to actually do it. At the time, there were about 20 other groups around the world trying to do the same thing using different techniques. Also, Andrew Cleland and Mike Geller wrote a paper outlining how they thought the experiment could be done in 2004! In 2004, I was still in undergraduate school, writing my senior thesis on quantum computing. I started working with Andrew and John in 2006 and picked up the project after talking with Andrew about it. After about 3 years of 80+ hour weeks designing and making circuits in the USCB cleanroom, building machines, testing materials, and writing computer code, I was able to make the little quantum mechanical paddle in the video. We cooled it down in John's refigerator using electronics built by Markus Ansmann, Erik Lucero, Matthew Neeley, Radek Bialczak, and others, and those electronic were controlled by a software platform developed by Markus and Matthew, running code primarily written by Max Hofheinz. It is a shame the full cast of characters behind many major accomplishments often remains hidden from the public eye. There are many graduate students out there who receive virtually no praise for their sacrifice, hard work, and determination. So when you hear about some awesome new experiment, remember that it took the combined efforts of many dedicated scientists to make it happen.