Inside Quantum Technology

Majorana Fermions: Where Microsoft Faltered, Korean Physicists Make Breakthrough

(By Becky Bracken) Two separate research announcements on Marjorana fermion particles could help to determine the quantum computing industry winners. While one team of physicists has been forced to walk back its 2018 breakthrough, another has found success.
Physicists theorize there are hard-to-find particles called Marjorana fermions with the ability to stabilize qubits enough to allow them to be used to build quantum computing systems.
The race is on to see who will find them first and harness them to scale quantum computing in earnest. But for these Marjorana fermions to be useful in stabilizing quantum systems, they must identified in a solid system.
Microsoft funded early research on Majorana particles with the hope of leapfrogging their development over competitors like IBM, Intel and Google, Wired reported.
But in January, Microsoft faced a setback when it was forced to correct research reporting a breakthrough in identifying Marjorana particle.
Originally published in 2018 by Microsoft researcher Leo Kouwenhoven, the report said his team observed evidence of Majorana particles in something he called “zero-bias peaks” which he said was able to measure with an “electric current passing through a tiny, supercold wire of semiconductor,” according to Wired.
Now those findings, originally published in the journal Nature, are being retracted with a note saying the research included “technical errors.”
But where the Microsoft team’s findings have collapsed, another group of physicists say they have found an alternative prospect for building Marjorana fermion structures.
South Korean physicists led by Professor Kwang-Yong Choi working out of Ahung-Ang University recently announced they had found Majorana fermions in a “…graphene-like quantum magnetic material closely resembling a Kitaev honeycomb in a magnetic field,” according to the announcement about the findings.
“The properties of α-RuCl3 are such that at low magnetic fields, it exhibits a zigzag ordering of “spins” — an essential quantum property influencing the ordering of electrons in atoms and molecules,” the report announcement explained. “While in high magnetic fields, it exhibits a ‘spin polarized state,’ with all its spins oriented along the field.”
Choi and his team used polarized light to excite α-RuCl3 and then mapped the movement of particles generated with various ranges of temperatures and magnetic fields, they explain. ‘
“If we can realize perfect Majorana fermions in solid materials, a stable quantum computer is not far away!” Prof. Choi said about the findings. “We are close to achieving an ideal Majorana fermion through deconfinement of bound Majorana particles by strain engineering.”
Prof. Choi added his team intends to build on their work, which support the idea that the Kitaev honeycomb material shape is created by exciting Majorana fermion particles.
“We will now attempt to fine-tune magnetic parameters and stabilize the fragile Majorana fermions through interface engineering,” he said. “In addition, we will test their statistics as a first step towards building quantum bits!”

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Inside Quantum Technology New York City Online May 17-19

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