In a recent study published in Nature Physics, a team of experimental physicists from the University of Cologne have made a groundbreaking discovery in the realm of superconductivity. Led by Professor Dr. Yoichi Ando, the researchers have demonstrated the possibility of inducing superconducting effects in materials known for their unique edge-only electrical properties. This discovery holds immense potential for advancing our understanding of quantum states and could play a critical role in the development of stable and efficient quantum computers.

Superconductivity is a phenomenon characterized by the flow of electricity without resistance in certain materials. On the other hand, the quantum anomalous Hall effect leads to zero resistance, but is confined to the edges of the material. The combination of superconductivity and the quantum anomalous Hall effect is predicted to give rise to topologically protected particles known as Majorana fermions. These fermions have the potential to revolutionize future technologies such as quantum computers by providing “flying qubits” that are topologically protected.

Anjana Uday, a final-year doctoral researcher in Dr. Ando’s group and the first author of the paper, described the experimental setup used in the study. The researchers used thin films of the quantum anomalous Hall insulator contacted by a superconducting Niobium electrode to induce chiral Majorana states at the material’s edges. After years of dedicated work, the researchers were able to achieve their goal by observing crossed Andreev reflection, a phenomenon that allowed them to detect the induced superconductivity in the topological edge state.

Gertjan Lippertz, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Ando’s group and co-first author of the paper, highlighted the key factor that led to the success of the experiment. Collaboration with colleagues at KU Leuven, the University of Basel, and Forschungszentrum Jülich, as well as theory support from the Cluster of Excellence Matter and Light for Quantum Computing (ML4Q), played a crucial role in the research. The ability to carry out the entire experiment, from film deposition to device fabrication to ultra-low-temperature measurements, in the same lab was a significant advantage that contributed to the success of the project.

The discovery opens up exciting avenues for future research in the field of quantum computing. The next steps include experiments to directly confirm the emergence of chiral Majorana fermions and to explore their exotic nature. By understanding and harnessing topological superconductivity and chiral Majorana edge states, researchers could revolutionize quantum computing by providing stable qubits that are less susceptible to decoherence and information loss. The platform demonstrated in this study offers a promising path towards achieving these goals, potentially leading to the development of more robust and scalable quantum computers.


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