(IEEE) Quantum computing researchers are mostly using one of two strategies to store and manipulate qubits: superconducting loops or trapped ions. Both of these approaches are prone to error, though, making it necessary to build in much redundancy so that the needed error correction can be done.
That’s why some researchers (in particular, some working at Microsoft) have long considered a third strategy: building a “topological” quantum computer, which, if it were ever to come to pass, would have qubits that were much less prone to error. Constructing a topological quantum computer would, however, be much harder.
Topological qubits and necessary to construct topological qubits and require a very special physical substrate. While it’s possible to construct such a substrate using thin layers of different materials, a better approach might be to use a substance that in bulk acts as what is known as a topological superconductor.
“Those are very rare,” says Nick Butch, who is a condensed-matter physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and also an adjunct associate professor of physics at the University of Maryland. He and his colleagues study new and unique types of superconductors, and they believe that they have discovered one that may indeed prove to be a topological superconductor, uranium ditelluride.