US Army-funded research carried out at the University of California in Los Angles (UCLA) has discovered a way to block cyber intrusions in sensitive communication networks.

Researchers have found that Majorana particles could be used as critical building blocks for quantum computers. The particles were predicted more than 80 years ago by Italian theoretical physicist Ettore Majorana.

Unusual properties of the Majorana particles make them resistant to external interference and prevent any loss of quantum information.

Quantum computers are capable of solving problems quickly and efficiently, potentially offering significant enhancement in situational awareness with the capability to process large amounts of available data. This is a fundamental priority research area for the US Army.

“The Majorana particles show up and behave like halves of an electron, although they aren’t pieces of electrons.”

Army Research Office (ARO) Engineering Sciences Directorate solid-state electronics programme manager Dr Joe Qiu said: “Because the Majorana particle is its own anti-particle, carrying zero electrical charge, it is viewed as the best candidate to carry a quantum bit, or qubit, the unit of data that would be the foundation of quantum computers.

“Unlike ‘bits’ of data in standard computers, which can be represented as either 0s or 1s, qubits have the ability to be both 0s and 1s, a property that would give quantum computers exponentially more computing power and speed than today’s best supercomputers.”

The research team of scientists at UCLA received funding from an Army Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative award that is jointly managed by electronics, physics and materials divisions at ARO.

UCLA postdoctoral scholar Qing Lin He said: “The Majorana particles show up and behave like halves of an electron, although they aren’t pieces of electrons.

“We observed quantum behaviour, and the signal we saw clearly showed the existence of these particles.”

The next step of the research will explore the potential use of the Majorana particles in quantum braiding, which would knit them together to allow information to be stored and processed at ‘super’ high speeds.

The research team also includes members from UC Irvine, UC Davis and Stanford University.