Military Embedded Systems

Army-funded research discovers way to block cyber intrusions


April 17, 2018

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Army-funded research discovers way to block cyber intrusions
Image by U.S. Army/ Shutterstock

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. University of California in Los Angles (UCLA) researchers found a way to block cyber intrusions on sensitive communication networks.

The U.S. Army-funded research focuses on the Majorana particles, which could become critical building blocks for quantum computers because their unusual properties make them resistant to external interference and prevent loss of quantum information. The research team also includes collaborating members from UC Irvine, UC Davis, and Stanford University.

The Majorana particle has been the focus of keen interest for quantum computing in large part because its neutral charge makes it resistant to external interference and gives it the ability to leverage and sustain a quantum property known as entanglement. Entanglement allows two physically separate particles to concurrently encode information, which could generate enormous computing power.

The discovery solves a long standing problem in physics and opens up a potential avenue to control Majorana fermions for realizing robust topological quantum computing, says Dr. Joe Qiu, manager of the Solid-State Electronics Program within the Engineering Sciences Directorate at the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, located at Research Triangle Park in Durham, North Carolina.

For their research, the team set up a superconductor, a material that allows electrons to flow freely across its surfaces without resistance, and placed above it a thin film of a new quantum material called topological insulator, to give the engineers the ability to manipulate the particles into a specific pattern. After sweeping a very small magnetic field over the setup, the researchers found the Majorana particles' distinct quantized signal - the telltale fingerprint of a specific type of quantum particles - in the electrical traffic between the two materials.

In the experiment, Majorana particles traveled along the topological insulator's edges in a distinct braid-like pattern. The researchers said the next step in their research will explore how to use Majorana particles in quantum braiding, which would knit them together to allow information to be stored and processed at super high speeds.

The research leading to the discovery represents a close interdisciplinary collaboration between a team of researchers including electrical engineers, physicists and material scientists. The UCLA team is funded by an Army Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, or MURI, award jointly managed by Electronics (Dr. Joe Qiu), Physics (Dr. Marc Ulrich) and Materials (Dr. John Prater) Divisions at ARO. ARO funds research to initiate scientific and far-reaching technological discoveries in extramural organizations, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and private industry that may make future American Soldiers stronger and safer.

This research was led by Prof. Kang Wang, a UCLA distinguished professor of electrical engineering, of physics and of materials science and engineering, who also holds UCLA's Raytheon Chair in Electrical Engineering. First published in the prestigious journal Science last July, the research was featured in an invited talk presented by Professor Wang as well as two other related invited talks by his collaborators during the American Physical Society March Meeting.