Rare superconductor could change the course of quantum computing


Quantum computers place a high demand on their underlying hardware.

However, superconductors present a way to conduct electricity without resistance when cooled to sufficiently low temperatures, which is why they are an ideal resource in a world that strives to reduce energy consumption. But a newly discovered and rare type of superconductor could change the course of quantum computers.

A group of researchers have discovered a new and rare topological superconductor called LaPt3P, and it could become at the heart of the nascent quantum computing industry, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Communication.

New superconductor avoids common quantum computing snag

Superconductors exhibit quantum properties at the scale of common everyday objects, making them very promising candidates for building computers that use quantum physics to store data and perform computer operations so advanced that they dramatically outperform even the latest supercomputers in some areas. This has caused an increase in demand from big tech companies like IBM, Microsoft, Google and many others to scale quantum computers to industrial level via superconductors.

The study’s research comes from researchers at the University of Kent, in addition to the STFC Rutherford Appleton lab. Before their discovery, superconductors had encountered a problem. The elementary units of quantum computers (qubits) are very sensitive and easily lose their quantum properties due to electromagnetic fields, in addition to collisions with air particles and heat. One way to protect qubits from these effects is to create stronger versions with a special class of superconductors: topological superconductors, which harbor protected metallic states on their surfaces or boundaries.

Topological superconductors like LaPt3P have been discovered through muon spin relaxation experiments, in tandem with very complex theoretical analysis. To verify that the properties of the new superconductor were not the result of an instrument or sample accident, the research team used two different sample sets, prepared at ETH Zurich and at the University of Warwick. Next, the team performed muon experiments at two types of muon facilities: one at PSI, Switzerland, and another at the pulsed neutron and muon source ISIS at STFC Rutherford Appleton laboratory.

The components of quantum computing may soon come together

“This discovery of the LaPt3P topological superconductor has enormous potential in the field of quantum computing,” said Sudeep Kumar Ghosh, Leverhulme Early Career fellow at Kent and principal investigator of the new study. “The discovery of such a rare and sought-after component demonstrates the importance of muon research to the everyday world around us.” And it follows a major breakthrough in quantum computing. Last February, researchers sent entangled qubit states via a communications cable connecting one quantum network node to another. “Developing methods that allow us to transfer entangled states will be essential in quantum computing,” said Professor Andrew Cleland, lead scientist on the study behind this study, in a blog post on the UCicago website.

In other words, with a newly discovered superconducting material overcoming the fundamental problems of quantum computers and “top floor” advancements already successfully communicating between nodes of the quantum network, the dawn of quantum computers capable of not only solving very complex theoretical physics problems, but also by transforming our communication infrastructure, is closer than ever.

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