Research Description

My research interests lie at the interface between atomic, molecular and optical physics, condensed matter, and quantum information science. In recent years, the synergy between these fields has been strengthened by a tremendous amount of experimental progress, which has made it possible to assemble complex, strongly interacting, quantum many-body systems from individual atoms, ions, molecules and photons. These advances have opened the door to realizing non-equilibrium phases of matter, to understanding the dynamics of quantum thermalization (and of its failure), and to measuring the intrinsic properties of topological phases. Dialogue between theory and experiment is especially crucial to addressing these questions and my group employs a variety of theoretical, numerical and experimental tools.

In the News

Time Crystals in the Limelight

UC Berkeley physicist Norman Yao first described five years ago how to make a time crystal — a new form of matter whose patterns repeat in time instead of space. Unlike crystals of emerald or ruby, however, those time crystals existed for only a fraction of a second.

Going Beyond Qubits

A team led by physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley has successfully observed the scrambling of quantum information, which is thought to underlie the behavior of black holes, using qutrits: information-storing quantum units that can represent three separate states at the same time. Their efforts also pave the way for building a quantum information processor based upon qutrits.

Can entangled qubits be used to probe black holes?

Physicists have used a seven-qubit quantum computer to simulate the scrambling of information inside a black hole, heralding a future in which entangled quantum bits might be used to probe the mysterious interiors of these bizarre objects.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
March 6, 2019
Phil Dooley
There may be a way to extract and unscramble information from black holes after all, suggests a new study co-authored by assistant physics professor Norman Yao, also a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "This is expected to be really, really hard, but if quantum mechanics is to be believed, it should, in principle, be possible," Professor Yao says. The experiment involved the simulation of a black hole using a quantum computer with seven quantum particles, or qubits, in the form of very cold ytterbium ions suspended in electric fields. Beyond the possibility of probing black holes, Professor Yao says: "One possible application for our protocol is related to the benchmarking of quantum computers, where one might be able to use this technique to diagnose more complicated forms of noise and decoherence in quantum processors." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
September 4, 2018
Norman Y. Yao, and Chetan Nayak

Time is an outlier, write assistant physics professor Norman Yao and Chetan Nayak, a colleague from UC Santa Barbara, in a report on research into the phenomenon of "time crystals" -- structures that repeat in time, as well as in space. "The epiphany that discrete time-translation symmetry can be treated on par with other, more conventional symmetries has revised our understanding of time and even has had an almost immediate effect on experiments," they say. Discussing those experiments and their implications, they conclude: "Although it is too early to say, the greatest long-term impact of time crystals may well be that they have opened our eyes to the new world of nonequilibrium phases of matter." For more on this, see our press release from 2017 in Berkeley News.

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