Superconductors are materials that shepherd electrons seamlessly from one place to another with zero resistance. Most have just one “lane”—but a newly discovered material can carry current racing in both directions at once.

The material, β-Bi2Pd, is a thin film of crystalline bismuth and palladium. When shaped into a ring, it displays an unconventional ability to cycle current clockwise and counterclockwise simultaneously. Its developers say it could potentially play a role in building the next generation of quantum computers, machines that rely on quantum physics to perform vastly more calculations than contemporary computers can.

The “superposition of clockwise and counterclockwise currents” may let the material act as a qubit, the basic building block of a quantum computer, says Yufan Li, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University and the study's lead author. Whereas a classical computer bit exists in one of two states, 1 or 0, a qubit can exist in a superposition of both states (not unlike Schrodinger's famous dead-and-alive cat). Qubits can thus hold far more information than classical bits, giving them the potential to achieve superior computing power.

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