In a significant development for the future of quantum computing, researchers at the Macroscopic Quantum Matter Group laboratory in University College Cork (UCC) have made a groundbreaking discovery using one of the world's most powerful quantum microscopes. The team has identified a spatially modulating superconducting state in a new and unusual superconductor, Uranium Ditelluride (UTe2), which could potentially address one of quantum computing's greatest challenges.
The Power of Superconductors
Superconductors are materials that allow electricity to flow with zero resistance, meaning they don't dissipate any energy despite carrying a large current. This is possible because, instead of individual electrons moving through the metal, pairs of electrons bind together to form a macroscopic quantum mechanical fluid.
Lead author of the paper, Joe Carroll, a PhD researcher working with UCC Prof. of Quantum Physics Séamus Davis, explains, “What our team found was that some of the electron pairs form a new crystal structure embedded in this background fluid. These types of states were first discovered by our group in 2016 and are now called Electron Pair-Density Waves. These Pair Density Waves are a new form of superconducting matter the properties of which we are still discovering.”
A New Type of Superconductor
What makes UTe2 particularly exciting is that it appears to be a new type of superconductor. The pairs of electrons in UTe2 seem to have intrinsic angular momentum. If this is true, then the UCC team has detected the first Pair-Density Wave composed of these exotic pairs of electrons.
Carroll elaborates, “What is particularly exciting for us and the wider community is that UTe2 appears to be a new type of superconductor. Physicists have been searching for a material like it for nearly 40 years.”
Implications for Quantum Computing
Quantum computers rely on quantum bits or qubits to store and manipulate information. However, the quantum state of these qubits is easily destroyed, limiting the application of quantum computers.
UTe2, however, is a special type of superconductor that could have huge consequences for quantum computing. It could potentially be used as a basis for topological quantum computing, where there is no limit on the lifetime of the qubit during computation. This could open up many new ways for more stable and useful quantum computers.
Carroll explains, “There are indications that UTe2 is a special type of superconductor that could have huge consequences for quantum computing… In such materials there is no limit on the lifetime of the qubit during computation opening up many new ways for more stable and useful quantum computers.”
The discovery by the UCC team provides another piece to the puzzle of UTe2. Understanding the fundamental superconducting properties of materials like UTe2 is crucial for developing practical quantum computers. Carroll concludes, “What we've discovered then provides another piece to the puzzle of UTe2. To make applications using materials like this we must understand their fundamental superconducting properties. All of modern science moves step by step. We are delighted to have contributed to the understanding of a material which could bring us closer to much more practical quantum computers.”
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