A Rare Superconductor Could Change the Course of Quantum Computing

It overcomes a huge snag in viable quantum computers.
Brad Bergan
A 3D-rendered image of a futuristic circuit board.4X-image / iStock

Quantum computers put a high demand on their underlying material.

However, superconductors present a way of conducting electricity without resistance once cooled to sufficiently low temperatures, which is why they're an ideal resource in a world trying its hardest to reduce energy consumption. But a newly discovered and rare kind of superconductors could change the course of quantum computers.

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

A new superconductor avoids a common snag in quantum computing

Superconductors exhibit quantum properties on the scale of common, everyday objects, which makes them highly promising candidates for constructing computers that use quantum physics to store data and perform computing operations so advanced that they substantially outperform even the latest supercomputers in some areas. This has caused a surge in demand from leading tech companies like IBM, Microsoft, Google, and more to scale quantum computers to the industrial level via superconductors.

The study's research comes from researchers at the University of Kent, in addition to STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Before their discovery, superconductors had hit a snag. The elementary units of quantum computers (qubits) are highly sensitive, and easily lose their quantum properties from electromagnetic fields, in addition to collisions with air particles, and heat. One way to protect qubits from these effects involves creating more resilient versions with a special class of superconductors: Topological ones, which host protected metallic states on their surfaces, or boundaries.

Topological superconductors like LaPt3P were discovered through muon spin relaxation experiments, in tandem with highly complex theoretical analysis. To verify that the properties of the new superconductor weren't a fluke borne of instrument or sample accident, the research team used two different sets of samples, prepared in ETH Zurich and the University of Warwick. Then the team performed muon experiments at two different kinds of muon facilities: one in PSI, Switzerland, and another in the ISIS Pulsed Neutron and Muon Source at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

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Components of quantum computing may soon come together

"This discovery of the topological superconductor LaPt3P has tremendous potential in the field of quantum computing," said Sudeep Kumar Ghosh, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Kent and the principal investigator of the new study. "Discovery of such a rare and desired component demonstrates the importance of muon research for the everyday world around us." And this comes on the heels of a major breakthrough in quantum computing. This February, researchers sent entangled qubit states via communication cable linking one quantum network's node to another. "Developing methods that allow us to transfer entangled states will be essential to quantum computing," said Professor Andrew Cleland, lead scientist of the study behind this study, in a blog post on UChicago's website.

In other words, with a newly-discovered superconducting material overcoming fundamental snags to quantum computers, and "top-floor" advances already finding success communicating between quantum network nodes, the dawn of quantum computers capable of not only solving highly-complex theoretical physics, but also transforming our communications infrastructures, is closer now more than ever before.

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