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The errors that arise from the volatile nature of quantum technologies are a major roadblock on the path to practical quantum computing. We can imagine getting past this blockade by driving straight through it, using a car built to withstand the impact: this is quantum error correction. Alternatively, we might try to drive around the obstacle, bypassing the original problem entirely. To that end, researchers are investigating Majorana fermions – curious quantum objects that are their own antiparticles and are thought to be naturally resilient to quantum errors. So far, however, these quantum objects have proven difficult to create and control.

Researchers at the University of Maryland, US have now identified a more experimentally feasible way to generate Majorana fermions, potentially paving the way for Majorana-based quantum computation. In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, they show that a simple physical system can serve as a flexible platform for observing and manipulating these particles. The platform’s utility derives from its simplicity, says Ruixing Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher at Maryland and lead author of the study. “We don’t have to create additional structures. Nature gives us everything we need,” he says.

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