‘In 2019 we will conclusively prove the existence of Majorana particles'

The holidays are approaching, and so is the turn of the year. What will 2019 bring us? For a special end-of-year series we asked four TU/e people about their view on the new year. What goals are they setting for themselves, and what dreams do they have? In this article: professor Erik Bakkers.

If we expect great results from anyone at TU/e in 2019, it is Erik Bakkers. In March it became already clear that the evidence of Majorana particles is getting ever closer. Bakkers expects to demonstrate these particles definitively in 2019. Majoranas particles have long been predicted – they are their own antiparticle and can form the basis of the future quantum computer. A real life's work, as he calls it.

Erik Bakkers is professor at the Department of Applied Physics. In 2017 he set up his own research group Advanced Nanomaterials & Devices. Together with professor Leo Kouwenhoven (QuTech/ TU Delft) and his research group, he has been searching for Majorana particles since 2012. In addition, Bakkers' group is researching the light emission of silicon and the application of nanowires in solar cells.

What do you hope to achieve in 2019?

"First of all, I think that next year we will be able to conclusively demonstrate the existence of Majoranas. By improving the materials we now have the opportunity to show that two of these particles, each on one side of a nanowire, are intertwined. This is a quantum mechanical effect and provides strong evidence that these are Majoranas.”

"We also expect to find the 'holy grail' for the semiconductor industry: light emission from silicon. This has not been achieved before, but it would be a major breakthrough. This invention would make computer chips faster, making it easier to connect them to the Internet. Within our group we have changed the crystal structure of silicon and we see that light is emitted. I hope that we will have this ready soon for dispatch to a scientific journal.”

How will we hear from you in 2019?

"If both projects above prove successful, they will receive a lot of attention in the press. I expect you will see me everywhere in the newspapers and in the news! I would really like to sit down at the table with Matthijs van Nieuwkerk (current affairs chat show host). I think it's fun to see how that goes, even behind the scenes, for example.”

When will 2019 be a success for you?

"Majorana particles and the light emission from silicon are both really big issues. My life’s work. If we really do achieve these goals next year, then I’ll be very happy and this will mean that we will definitely be doing something fun with the whole group.”

"These are goals in themselves, but also both starting points for a new field: if we can make Majoranas, the next challenge is to realise so-called parafermions, which will enable even more quantum operations. And if we show that silicon can indeed emit light, the next goal is to make a laser from it.”

What is your wish for all TU/e students in 2019?

"I would like to wish all TU/e students and staff an ambitious and successful year. The strength of TU/e lies in collaboration, among ourselves and with industry. People in this region see the importance of collaborating, and that is not the case everywhere. It is precisely this collaboration that has taken Eindhoven a long way. I always learn new things from every collaboration, both intrinsically and personally. I therefore wish everyone nice, new collaborations.”