Matter can take many forms, from the familiar solid, liquid, and gas to the more complex states found only by tugging at the limits of physics. Researchers have now discovered a new peculiar state of matter they've dubbed "topological superconductivity".
The researchers looked at the behavior of a particular type of quasi-particle, an interaction that behaves like a particle even if it’s not. Of interest in this study were Majorana fermions, which are defined as being their own antiparticle. No known particle is a Majorana fermion, but some of these quasi-particles have the right properties.
Quantum computers use the power of quantum mechanics to perform computational tasks. They have the potential to make complex calculations with extreme ease, but before we have a fully functioning quantum computer, many challenges need to be addressed.
One of them is the stability of qubits (quantum bits). The calculating units of these machines are quite delicate, struggling to cope with environmental noise. Majorana fermions tend to be sturdier, so it's been suggested they could make for good qubits. Majorana fermions are thought to emerge in certain phase transitions of superconductors, and it's this transition that's believed to be the topological superconductivity observed by the researchers.
"Our research has succeeded in revealing experimental evidence for a new state of matter – topological superconductivity," senior author Javad Shabani, an assistant professor of physics at New York University, said in a statement. "This new topological state can be manipulated in ways that could both speed calculation in quantum computing and boost storage."
The finding is reported in a paper uploaded to arXiv. The team was able to see the emergence of this topological superconductivity in a two-dimensional system, but they believe that the system can be scalable. If they are correct, this could be used to construct qubits both for making calculations and for storing quantum information.