Article: Published in Nature Reviews Physics by Eduardo Lee, member of the Condensed Matter Physics Department and IFIMAC researcher.
Topological Majorana bound states have potential for encoding, manipulating and protecting quantum information in condensed-matter systems. This Review discusses the emergence and characterization of Majorana bound states in realistic devices based on hybrid semiconducting nanowires and their connection to more conventional Andreev bound states.
In spatially-homogeneous superconducting materials with s-wave pairing, electronic excitations above the ground state must overcome an energy gap. In contrast, inhomogeneous superconductors such as those with magnetic impurities or weak links, or heterojunctions containing normal metals or quantum dots, can host subgap electronic excitations that are generically known as Andreev bound states (ABSs). With the advent of topological superconductivity, a new kind of ABS with exotic qualities, known as Majorana bound state (MBS), has been discovered. We review the main properties of ABSs and MBSs, and the state-of-the-art techniques for their detection. We focus on hybrid superconductor-semiconductor nanowires, possibly coupled to quantum dots, as one of the most flexible and promising experimental platforms. We discuss how the combined effect of spin-orbit coupling and Zeeman field in these wires triggers the transition from ABSs into MBSs. We show theoretical progress beyond minimal models in understanding experiments, including the possibility of different types of robust zero modes that may emerge without a band-topological transition. We examine the role of spatial non-locality, a special property of MBS wavefunctions that, together with non-Abelian braiding, is the key to realizing topological quantum computation. [Full article]