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Researchers investigate intricacies in superconductors with hopes to support quantum computer development

Researchers explore the intricacies of superconductors in hopes of aiding the development of quantum computers

Credit: Canadian Light Source

Ryan Day studies superconductors. Materials that conduct electricity perfectly and do not lose energy through heat and resistance. In particular, the scientist at the University of California, Berkeley is studying how superconductors can co-exist with their opposites; insulating materials that stop the flow of electrons.

The materials that combine these two opposing states, called topological superconductors, are understandably strange, difficult to characterize and engineer, but if you could design them properly, they could play an important role in quantum computers.

“Every computer is prone to errors, and it’s no different when you move to quantum computing – it just gets a lot harder to manage. Topological quantum computing is one of the platforms that are believed to be many of the most common sources of error,” says Day, “but topological quantum computers require us to fabricate a particle that has never been seen in nature before.”

Day came to the Canadian University of Saskatchewan light source to use the QMSC beamline, a facility built to investigate exactly these kinds of questions in quantum materials. The capabilities were developed under the direction of Andrea Damascelli, scientific director of the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute at UBC, with whom Day was a doctoral student at the time of this research.

“QMSC was developed to have very precise control over a very wide range of energies, so you can really get exceptionally accurate information about the electrons as they move in all possible directions,” Day said.

His experiment, conducted at temperatures around 20 degrees above absolute zero, aimed to resolve conflicting results in existing research on topological state superconductors.

“The experiments done before ours were really good, but there were some contradictions in the literature that needed to be better understood,” he explained. The relative newness of the field, combined with the unusual properties that materials exhibit in the energy ranges used for this study, meant that it was difficult to unravel what was going on with the topological states.

In his experiments, Day noted that the topological states were embedded in a host of other electronic states that prevent lithium iron arsenide — the superconducting material he studies — from exhibiting topological superconductivity. Based on his measurements at CLS, he proposed that this problem could be circumvented by simply stretching the material.

The results of this work, published in Physical assessment B, provide further evidence that lithium iron arsenide supports topological states on the surface, key to the material’s potential use in quantum computers. It also reveals potential challenges for engineering materials for these applications, an area for future research.

“By doing these experiments, we can understand this material in a much better way and start thinking about how we can actually use it, and hopefully somebody builds a quantum computer with it and everybody wins.”


Majorana fermions have potential for information technology without resistance


More information:
RP Day et al, Three-dimensional electronic structure of LiFeAs, Physical assessment B (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.105.155142

Provided by Canadian Light Source


Quote: Researchers explore the intricacies in superconductors with hopes of aiding the development of quantum computers (June 2022, June 22), retrieved June 22, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-intricacies-superconductors-quantum. html

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