Mysterious Majorana quasiparticle is now closer to being controlled for quantum computing | 5/24/2019 | Staff
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As mysterious as the Italian scientist for which it is named, the Majorana particle is one of the most compelling quests in physics.

Its fame stems from its strange properties—it is the only particle that is its own antiparticle—and from its potential to be harnessed for future quantum computing.

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In recent years, a handful of groups including a team at Princeton have reported finding the Majorana in various materials, but the challenge is how to manipulate it for quantum computation.

In a new study published this week, the Princeton team reports a way to control Majorana quasiparticles in a setting that also makes them more robust. The setting—which combines a superconductor and an exotic material called a topological insulator—makes Majoranas especially resilient against destruction by heat or vibrations from the outside environment. What is more, the team demonstrated a way to turn on or off the Majorana using small magnets integrated into the device. The report appeared in the journal Science.

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"With this new study we now have a new way to engineer Majorana quasiparticles in materials," said Ali Yazdani, Class of 1909 Professor of Physics and senior author on the study. "We can verify their existence by imaging them and we can characterize their predicted properties."

The Majorana is named for physicist Ettore Majorana, who predicted the existence of the particle in 1937 just a year before mysteriously disappearing during a ferry trip off the Italian coast. Building on the same logic with which physicist Paul Dirac predicted in 1928 that the electron must have an antiparticle, later identified as the positron, Majorana theorized the existence of a particle that is its own antiparticle.

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Typically when matter and antimatter come together, they annihilate each other in a violent release of energy, but the Majoranas, when they appear as pairs each at either end of specially...
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