Research focusing on quantum computing, where the quantum properties of particles are used for calculations and for data storage, has long been a hot subject. However, the field has struggled with a difficult problem: the quantum systems used to build the computers have been very sensitive to disturbances.
As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Annica Black-Schaffer will study a class of relatively newly-discovered materials called topological superconductors, which have the potential to provide robust quantum systems. Topological superconductors are special because objects that can be thought of as half-electrons are formed in the material or, to express it correctly: the wave function of the electron is split into two parts, which are spatially separated. This appears to form a special quasiparticle, a Majorana fermion, which has thus far only existed in theory.
Theoretically, Majorana fermions can be used to perform extremely sturdy quantum calculations. While succeeding in proving the existence of a Majorana fermion would be a great achievement in physics by itself, using their innate properties to build a quantum computer would launch a revolution in computing technology.
Photo: Jyrki Sivenius