A new strategy to detect anyons

Understanding whether the strange behavior of anyons can be harnessed for topological quantum computing.

Anoyns are non-conformist particles and subjects of interest among physicists. These particles don’t follow the same rules as particles in an everyday, three-dimensional world. 

Anoyns are produced in two-dimensional systems only. The orbit of these particles generates a wave function that changes by some fraction of an integer. It thus generates a new value: almost as if the particle maintains a “memory” of its interactions with the other particle even though it ended up back where it started.

This memory can be used to encode information. That’s the reason these particles are exciting tools for quantum computing. Quantum computing could potentially perform a virtually impossible types of calculations. A quantum computer using anyons — known as a topological quantum computer — can operate without elaborate error correction, which is a major stumbling block in the quest for usable quantum computers.

To be used in quantum computers, it is essential to identify their quantum statistics. Previously, scientists used a technique called charge interferometry. The interference pattern of particles’ wave functions reveals the particles’ quantum statistics.

This technique of identifying quantum statistics works efficiently in systems that conduct electricity.

However, it can’t be used to probe anyons in non-conducting systems.

And non-conducting systems can be helpful at higher temperatures than conducting systems, which need to be near absolute zero. That makes them a more practical option of topological quantum computing.

In this new study, scientists at Brown University have created a new method to probe the properties of anyons. They found that comparing properties of heat conductance in two-dimensional solids etched in very specific geometries could reveal the statistics of the anyons in those systems.

Vesna Mitrovic, a Brown physics professor, and experimentalist said“Any difference in the heat conductance in the two geometries would be smoking gun evidence of fractional statistics. What this study does is show exactly how people should set up experiments in their labs to test for these strange statistics.”

This study is a step forward toward understanding whether the strange behavior of anyons can indeed be harnessed for topological quantum computing.

Journal Reference:
  1. Zezhu Wei et al. Thermal Interferometry of Anyons in Spin Liquids. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.127.167204

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