Unconventional superconducter holds promise for quantum computing

October 14, 2019 //By Rich Pell
Unconventional superconducter holds promise for quantum computing
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) say they have discovered a superconducting material that could someday power quantum computers.

The researchers found that a superconducting material called ß-Bi2Pd contains special properties that they say could be the building blocks for technology of the future. In their study, the researchers found that a ring of ß-Bi2Pd 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 ß-Bi2Pd.

This has implications for the qubits used in quantum computing, which not only use two states, but also use a superposition of those two states. A famous example of a qubit, say the researchers, is Schrodinger's cat, a paradox that posits that a hypothetical cat that may be both dead and alive at the same time (see image).

"A more realistic, tangible implementation of 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," says Chia-Ling Chien, professor of physics at Johns Hopkins and an author on the paper.

In order to exist between two states, qubits using traditional superconductors require a very precise external magnetic field be applied on each qubit, thus making them difficult to operate in a practical manner.

"A ring of ß-Bi2Pd already exists in the ideal state and doesn't require any additional modifications to work," says Yufan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and first author of a paper on the study. "This could be a game changer."

The next step, say the researchers, is to look for a specific type of particle called Majorana fermions within ß-Bi2Pd. Majorana fermions are particles that are also anti-particles of themselves and are the basis for the development of the next level of disruption-resistant quantum computers—topological quantum computers.

Majorana fermions depend on a special type of superconducting material - a so-called spin-triplet superconductor with two electrons in each pair aligning


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