"Game changer" superconductor discovered to power future computers

Scientists from John Hopkins find a material for quantum computing.

"Game changer" superconductor discovered to power future computers

A qubit can exist simultaneously between two states. Schrodinger's cat is a well-known example of a qubit. This thought experiment involves a hypothetical cat that can be both dead and alive. In a similar way, a flux qubit, or a ring made of a superconducting material, can have electric current flowing both clockwise and counterclockwise simultaneously.

Credit: Yufan Li
  • Researchers from John Hopkins University discovered a new superconducting material.
  • The material, called β-Bi2Pd, can create flex qubits, necessary for quantum computing.
  • Next for the scientists is looking for Majorana fermions.

Quantum computers may be closer to reality thanks to a discovery by researchers from John Hopkins University. Their recent paper, published in Science, describes their find of a superconducting material that can be the basis of the computers of the future.

The big difference between our contemporary computers and quantum computers is that instead of using bits of either "0" or "1" to store a piece of information, the quantum computers will employ quantum mechanics. They will store data in quantum bits (known as "qubits"). Such qubits exist in a superposition of two states, where both zero and one can be represented at the same time.

This technology, supercharging computational speed, could make quantum computers immensely superior to current computers, especially in such fields as artificial intelligence, predicting weather, the stock market, developing cures for illnesses, military applications and others.

What the John Hopkins scientists found is a way to create a qubit from a ring made out of a superconducting material known as β-Bi2Pd, which naturally exists in a quantum state. Usually you would need to add magnetic fields to achieve this effect, a fact that makes the "flux qubit" created from this substance a possible "game changer," said Chia-Ling Chien, Professor of Physics at The Johns Hopkins University and the paper's co-author.

In their study, the researchers observed that β-Bi2Pd exists between two states, with the current able to simultaneously circulate both clockwise and counterclockwise through its ring.

The scientists are most excited about the practicality of utilizing such a material.

Quantum Computing 2019 Update

Quantum computing overview that includes main concepts, recent developments from IBM, Intel, Google, Microsoft, D-Wave, Rigetti and other pioneers.

Much more research lies ahead, however, before the era of quantum computers is upon us. Next for the researchers is looking for Majorana fermions within β-Bi2Pd. Finding these theoretical particles is seen as an important milestone in quantum computing. What's significant is that they are anti-particles of themselves and can lead to error-free topological quantum computers.

The paper's first author. Yufan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, thinks that discovering the special properties of β-Bi2Pd bodes well for finding within it the fermions.

"Ultimately, the goal is to find and then manipulate Majorana fermions, which is key to achieving fault-tolerant quantum computing for truly unleashing the power of quantum mechanics," said Li in a press release.

Xiaoying Xu of Johns Hopkins University; and M.-H. Lee and M.-W. Chu of National Taiwan University were the additional co-authors of the paper.

Check out their new paper, published October 11th, in Science Magazine.

There are 5 eras in the universe's lifecycle. Right now, we're in the second era.

Astronomers find these five chapters to be a handy way of conceiving the universe's incredibly long lifespan.

Image based on logarithmic maps of the Universe put together by Princeton University researchers, and images produced by NASA based on observations made by their telescopes and roving spacecraft

Image source: Pablo Carlos Budassi
Surprising Science
  • We're in the middle, or thereabouts, of the universe's Stelliferous era.
  • If you think there's a lot going on out there now, the first era's drama makes things these days look pretty calm.
  • Scientists attempt to understand the past and present by bringing together the last couple of centuries' major schools of thought.
Keep reading Show less

Dark energy: The apocalyptic wild card of the universe

Dr. Katie Mack explains what dark energy is and two ways it could one day destroy the universe.

  • The universe is expanding faster and faster. Whether this acceleration will end in a Big Rip or will reverse and contract into a Big Crunch is not yet understood, and neither is the invisible force causing that expansion: dark energy.
  • Physicist Dr. Katie Mack explains the difference between dark matter, dark energy, and phantom dark energy, and shares what scientists think the mysterious force is, its effect on space, and how, billions of years from now, it could cause peak cosmic destruction.
  • The Big Rip seems more probable than a Big Crunch at this point in time, but scientists still have much to learn before they can determine the ultimate fate of the universe. "If we figure out what [dark energy is] doing, if we figure out what it's made of, how it's going to change in the future, then we will have a much better idea for how the universe will end," says Mack.
Keep reading Show less

Astrophysicists find unique "hot Jupiter" planet without clouds

A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.

Illustration of WASP-62b, the Jupiter-like planet without clouds or haze in its atmosphere.

Credit: M. Weiss/Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Surprising Science
  • Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
  • Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
  • Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…