Majorana fermions (particles that are their own antiparticle) may or may not exist in nature as elementary building blocks, but in condensed matter they can be constructed out of electron and hole excitations. What is needed is a superconductor to hide the charge difference and a topological (Berry) phase to eliminate the energy difference from zero-point motion. A pair of widely separated Majorana fermions, bound to magnetic or electrostatic defects, has non-Abelian exchange statistics. A qubit encoded in this Majorana pair is expected to have an unusually long coherence time. I discuss strategies to detect Majorana fermions in a topological superconductor, as well as possible applications in a quantum computer. The status of the experimental search is reviewed.


Beenakker, C. W. J.

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