Jing Xia is an associate professor of physics & astronomy

A research team including Jing Xia, UCI associate professor of physics & astronomy, has reported finding firm evidence for Majorana fermions, part of a class of subatomic particles which includes the proton, neutron, electron, neutrino and quark. Publishing their findings this week in Science, the team describes their experiment where researchers from UCI and UCLA stacked thin films of two quantum materials – a superconductor and a magnetic topological insulator – and sent an electrical current through them, all inside a chilled vacuum chamber. The top film was a superconductor. The bottom one was a topological insulator which conducts current only along its surface or edges but not through its middle. Putting them together created a superconducting topological insulator, where electrons zip along two edges of the material’s surface without resistance. Physicists predict that fermions behaving this way will be essential to future quantum computers and electronic components. The Xia group has previously discovered other materials for making quantum computers.