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ERC grant for research on unusual quantum state

Martin Leijnse (Photo: Kennet Ruona)
Martin Leijnse (Photo: Kennet Ruona)

Martin Leijnse, researcher in solid state physics at Lund University in Sweden, has received a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) synergy grant worth EUR 1.5 million. He shares the total grant amount of EUR 10 million with three researchers from the University of Copenhagen.

The four researchers have worked together previously. Among other things, they have contributed to proving that a long-predicted theoretical physical state – the Majorana bound state – actually exists. The discovery led to an article in Science in December 2016, which has been widely read in the research community. 

The Majorana bound state occurs in so-called topological superconductors. It is not a natural phenomenon, as it requires preparation in the form of semiconducting nanowires that are connected to superconductors and exposed to a magnetic field. 

The research team has now received a grant from the EU worth a total of EUR 10 million to further increase our understanding of this quantum state. 

“This state appears to have several special peculiarities that we now hope to prove using a combined experimental and theoretical approach.”

In particular, the researchers want to demonstrate something known as non-abelian statistics. This means that it is possible to change the state of certain quantum systems solely by changing the places of the particles. The theory predicts that the Majorana bound state can be changed through the particles changing places, but even though the prediction was made over 30 years ago it has never been confirmed by experimental evidence. 

“We have received the EUR 10 million to prove exactly that. It will be difficult, but really exciting if we succeed”, says Martin Leijnse.

It is purely a basic research project, but if the researchers succeed there may be future applications in the form of super-fast quantum computers. 
The project will run for a six-year period and the funding will be allocated to postdocs, doctoral students and equipment.


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