Superconducting material could someday power quantum computer

Certain superconducting material contains special properties that could be the building blocks for the technology of the future.


Now, quantum computers can securely perform complex calculations, data encryption and more quickly predict the spread of viruses, thanks to a new discovery by the Johns Hopkins scientists. Scientists discovered that a certain superconducting material contains special properties that could be the building blocks for the technology of the future.

Quantum computers aren’t limited to two states; they encode information as quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist in superposition. This ability to use such qubits makes quantum computers much more powerful than existing computers when solving certain types of problems, such as those relating to artificial intelligence, drug development, cryptography, financial modeling, and weather forecasting.

Chia-Ling Chien, Professor of Physics at The Johns Hopkins University and another author on the paper said, “A more realistic, tangible implementation of the qubit can be a ring made of superconducting material, known as flux qubit, where two states with clockwise- and counterclockwise-flowing electric currents may exist simultaneously. In order to exist between two states, qubits using traditional superconductors require a very precise external magnetic field be applied to each qubit, thus making them difficult to operate in a practical manner.”

Scientists found that a ring of β-Bi2Pd already naturally exists between two states in the absence of an external magnetic field. Current can inherently circulate both clockwise and counterclockwise, simultaneously, through a ring of β-Bi2Pd.

Yufan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University and the paper’s first author said, “A ring of β-Bi2Pd already exists in the ideal state and doesn’t require any additional modifications to work. This could be a game-changer. The next step is to look for Majorana fermions within β-Bi2Pd; Majorana fermions are particles that are also anti-particles of themselves and are needed for the next level of disruption-resistant quantum computers: topological quantum computers.”

Majorana fermions depend on spin-triplet superconductor with two electrons in each pair aligning their spins in a parallel fashion—that has thus far been elusive to scientists. During experiments, scientists found that thin films of β-Bi2Pd have the special properties necessary for the future of quantum computing.

Although, scientists are yet to determine the intrinsic spin-triplet superconductor required to advance quantum computing forward. Still, scientists are expecting that the discovery of β-Bi2Pd’s special properties, will lead to finding Majorana fermions in the material next.

Li said, “Ultimately, the goal is to find and then manipulate Majorana fermions, which is key to achieving fault-tolerant quantum computing for truly unleashing the power of quantum mechanics.”

The study is published in the journal Science.

Xiaoying Xu of Johns Hopkins University; and M.-H. Lee and M.-W. Chu of National Taiwan University are other co-authors of the study.


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