The existence of ‘impostor’ particles revealed, a new breakthrough for quantum computing

The so-called Majorana particles have among their properties the ability to hide quantum information, coding it non-locally in space. This feature holds the promise of resilient quantum computing, which is essential for the advancement of this type of technology. However, there is currently no consensus on whether these theoretical particles have been detected in experiments.

Researchers at the Madrid Institute of Materials Science (ICMM-CSIC), the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2-CSIC-GENCAT) and the Austrian Institute of Science and Technology (ISTA) have discovered physical particles that masquerade as these types of particles .

The conclusions of this joint work, which applies two different measurement techniques combined with a theoretical analysis, help to greatly reduce the uncertainties of interpretation of the experiments. The work is published in the journal Nature.

The mystery of this tiny material

The authors found that the observed states that seem to demonstrate the detection of Majorana particles with one technique (Coulomb spectroscopy) are inconsistent with the data obtained with the second technique (tunneling spectroscopy), in which the expected signal is not observed. This apparent experimental contradiction is explained through theoretical calculations and shows that the observed particles are not Majorana states.

Similar to the Majorana Bar metaphor, a true rock star would not leave the stage even if the audience started to leave midway through the show, the true Majorana would remain anchored in the nanodevice.

“The observations are similar to the metaphorical scenario of Majorana’s Bar”, explain the scientists. “In his search for the famous rock star Majorana, a scientist enters a particle bar and sees a particle on stage that acts like it’s Majorana: dresses like her and sings Majorana’s song perfectly, so that all her fans convince themselves to be in front of their star. However, as soon as the back door is opened, all the particles of the place leave, including the supposed rock star, something unthinkable if it were the real thing. So was he really who he appeared to be?” say the scientists. “Not really,” adds this team of researchers.

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“That’s exactly what makes Majorana special. Just as in the Majorana’s Bar metaphor, a real rock star wouldn’t leave the stage even if the audience started to leave in the middle of the show, the real Majorana would remain anchored to the nanodevice by virtue of a profound mathematical principle called topological protection. 🇧🇷 This occurs even if there are circumstances that allow conventional electrons to escape through the tunnel effect,” they say.

experiments to find it

The objective of the work was to detect the presence of a certain variant of Majorana particles, since since their prediction in 1937 by Ettore Majorana they have not been found in laboratory experiments.

In our experimental conditions, the gates are nothing more than tunneling barriers through which electrons enter and exit. There is a drain gate and a source gate

“In our experimental conditions, the gates are nothing more than tunneling barriers through which electrons enter and exit. There is a drain gate and a source gate. Seen from the combined perspective of the two methodologies, our imposter turns out to be a different kind of quasi-particle. “These are interesting superconducting quasi-particles, but they are not Majorana particles,” the scientists continue.

The findings highlight the fact that these Majorana particle impostors can exist in many different types of devices and can fool different measurement strategies. It is the combination of two different ways of measuring what the impostor revealed through an apparent paradox.

Such an approach could drastically reduce interpretation ambiguities in experiments, something that has been debated for nearly a decade.

“Although it may seem like a negative result, it is very important to understand the fundamental physics that govern these superconducting devices. Our work greatly reduces the chances of false positives in the search for the elusive Majorana. We have taken another step towards its detection and the future exploitation of all its power in quantum computing”, conclude the researchers.

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