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Topological Quantum Computing with Majorana Zero Modes and Beyond


Topological quantum computing seeks to store and manipulate information in a protected manner using topological phases of matter. Information encoded in the degenerate state space of pairs of non-Abelian anyons or defects is robust to local perturbations, reducing its susceptiblity to environmental errors and potentially providing a scalable approach to quantum computing. However, topological quantum computing faces significant challenges, not least of which is identifying an experimentally accessible platform supporting non-Abelian topological physics. In this thesis, we critically analyze topological quantum computing with Majorana zero modes, non-Abelian defects of a topological superconductor. We identify intrinsic error sources for Majorana-based systems and propose quantum computing architectures that minimize their effects. Additionally, we consider a new approach for realizing and detecting non-Abelian topological defects in fractional Chern insulators.

Topological quantum computing is predicated on the idea that braiding non-Abelian anyons adiabatically can implement quantum gates fault tolerantly. However, any braiding experiment will necessarily depart from the strict adiabatic limit. We begin by analyzing the nature of diabatic errors for anyon braiding, paying particular attention to how such errors scale with braiding time. We find that diabatic errors are unfavorably large and worryingly sensitive to details of the time evolution. We present a measurement-based correction protocol for such errors, and illustrate its application in a particular Majorana-based qubit design.

We next propose designs for Majorana-based qubits operated entirely by a measurement-based protocol, thereby avoiding the diabatic errors discussed above. Our designs can be scaled into large two dimensional arrays amenable to long-term quantum computing goals, whose core components are testable in near-term devices. These qubits are robust to quasiparticle poisoning, anticipated to be one of the dominant error sources coupling to Majorana zero modes. We demonstrate that our designs support topologically protected Clifford operations and can be augmented to a universal gate set without requiring additional control parameters.

While topological protection greatly suppresses errors, residual coupling to noise limits the lifetimes of our proposed Majorana-based qubits. We analyze the dephasing times for our quasiparticle-poisoning-protected qubits by calculating their charge distribution using a particle number-conserving formalism. We find that fluctuations in the electromagnetic environment couple to an exponentially suppressed topological dipole moment. We estimate dephasing times due to $1/f$ noise, thermal quasiparticle excitations, and phonons for different qubit sizes.

The residual errors discussed above will necessarily require error correction for a sufficiently long quantum computation. We develop physically motivated noise models for Majorana-based qubits that can be used to analyze the performance of a quantum error correcting code. We apply this noise model to estimate pseudo-thresholds for a small subsystem code, identifying the relative importance of difference error processes from a fault tolerance perspective. Our results emphasize the necessity of suppressing long-lived quasiparticle excitations that can spread across the code.

Finally, we turn our attention to a different platform that could host non-Abelian topological defects: fractional Chern insulators in graphene. We study the edge states of fractional Chern insulators using the field theory of fractional quantum Hall edges supplemented with a symmetry action. We find that lattice symmetries impose a quantized momentum difference for edge electrons in a fractional state of a $C=2$ Chern band. This momentum difference can be used to selectively contact the different edge states, thereby allowing detection of topological defects in the bulk with a standard four terminal measurement. Our proposal could be implemented in graphene subject to an artificially patterned lattice.

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