Microsoft says its researchers have found evidence of a strange phenomenon that is key to its plan to build a general-purpose quantum computer.
This phenomenon known as Majorana zero mode is expected to pave the way for topological quantum computing, which is a technical method favored by Microsoft azure quantum project.
Quantum computing itself is a very strange concept: compared with the rigid one or zero world in classical computing, quantum computing juggles qubits (or qubits), which can represent one and zero at the same time until the result is read out.
Scientists say that quantum methods can solve certain types of problems – such as network optimization or simulation of molecular interactions – much faster than classical methods. Microsoft azure, Amazon Web services and other cloud based services are already using hybrid systems to apply some of the benefits of quantum methods to applications ranging from drug development to traffic management.
At the same time, Microsoft and other companies are trying to build hardware and software for “full stack” quantum computing systems, which can bear a wider range of applications. Microsoft has chosen a particularly peculiar technical strategy, that is, to induce quantum states on topological superconducting wires. In order to maintain the stability of these quantum states, there will be Majorana zero modes at both ends of these wires.
Since 1937, mayorana zero module has been a topic of interest in the theoretical field, but for decades, they have only stayed in the theoretical field. In 2018, a group of researchers reported that they created this phenomenon, but withdrew their claim three years later. Other claims have also been controversial, raising doubts about the future of topological quantum computing.
Last year, an analysis of azure quantum experimental quantum device data found that the signal showed that there was mayorana zero mode at both ends of the precisely tuned nanowire. Other features in the conductance data indicate the opening and closing of the topological gap, which is another signal of successful detection.
“This is great,” Roman lutchkin, Microsoft Partner research manager with expertise in quantum simulation, said in a Microsoft report on mayorana research. “We looked at the data and that’s the result.”
Zulfi alam, vice president of Microsoft quantum computing, said the hardware team had invited an external expert committee to review and verify the findings.
Even if the results are verified, more research is needed to create topological qubits and assemble a quantum computer ready for prime time. But at least Microsoft researchers will increase confidence that they are on the right path.
“Surprisingly, humans have been able to design a system to show one of the strangest physical phenomena in the universe,” said Krysta svore, an engineer and head of Microsoft’s quantum software development project. “We hope to use this to do almost unimaginable things – promote the development of a fault-tolerant quantum machine, which will bring computing to a new level closer to the natural way of operation.”