A new, multi-node FLEET review, published in Fabricexamines the search for Majorana fermions in iron-based superconductors.
The elusive Majorana fermion, or “angel particle”, proposed by Ettore Majorana in 1937, behaves simultaneously as a particle and an antiparticle – and remains surprisingly stable rather than self-destructive.
Majorana fermions promise irresistible information and communication technologies that address the growing energy consumption of modern electronics (already 8% of global electricity consumption) and promise a sustainable future for computers.
In addition, it is the presence of Majorana zero-energy states in topological superconductors that has made these exotic quantum materials the most important candidate materials to realize topological quantum computation.
The existence of Majorana fermions in condensed substance systems will aid in FLEET’s quest for future low-energy electronic technologies.
The angel particle: Both substance and antibody
Fundamental particles such as electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks and neutrinos (called fermions) each have their own separate antiparticles. An antiparticle has the same mass as its ordinary partner, but opposite electric charge and magnetic moment.
Conventional fermions and anti-fermions make up substance and antibody and destroy each other when combined.
“Majorana fermion is the only exception to this rule, a composite particle that is its own antiparticle,” says the corresponding author Prof. Xiaolin Wang (UOW).
But despite the intensive search for Majorana particles, the clue about its existence has been intangible for many decades, as the two conflicting properties (i.e., its positive and negative charge) make it neutral, and its interaction with the environment is very weak.
Topological superconductors: Fertile soil for the angel particle
While the existence of the Majorana particle has not yet been discovered, despite extensive searches in high-energy physical facilities such as CERN, it may exist as a single-particle excitation in condensed matter systems, where band topology and superconductivity coexist.
“In the last two decades, Majorana particles have been reported in many superconducting heterostructures and have been demonstrated with a strong potential in quantum computing applications,” according to Dr. Muhammad Nadeem, a FLEET postdoc at UOW.
A few years ago, a new type of material called iron-based topological superconductors was reported that coughed up Majorana particles without producing heterostructures, which is important for use in real devices.
“Our article reviews the latest experimental results in these materials: how to obtain topological superconducting materials, experimental observation of the topological state, and detection of Majorana zero states,” says lead author UOW Ph.D. candidate Lina Sang.
In these systems, quasi-particles can mimic a particular type of Majorana fermion, such as “chiral” Majorana fermion, one that moves along a one-dimensional orbit, and Majorana “zero state”, one that remains confined in a zero-dimensional space.
Applications of Majorana zero mode
If such condensed systems that host Majorana fermions are experimentally available and can be characterized by a simple technique, it would help scientists control the construction of low-energy technologies whose functionalities are activated by exploiting unique physical properties of Majorana fermions that eg. as fault-tolerant topological quantum computation and ultra-low-energy electronics.
Host Majorana fermions in topological states of matter, topological insulators and Weyl semi-metals will be covered in this month’s major international conference on semiconductor physics (ICPS) to be held in Sydney Australia.
The IOP 2021 Quantum Materials Roadmap examines the role of intrinsic spin-orbit coupling (SOC) based quantum materials for topological units based on Majorana modes, laying out evidence on the boundary between strong SOC materials and superconductors, as well as in an iron-based superconductor.
A magnetic method of controlling the transport of chiral Majorana fermions
Lina Sang et al., Majorana zeros in iron-based superconductors, Fabric (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.matt.2022.04.021
Provided by FLEET
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