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Withdrawal of scientific publication for the second time

Withdrawal of scientific publication for the second time

Physics professor Leo Koenhoven, one of the pioneers of the quantum project.Sculpture Bob Bronshoff / Dutch Rise

Scientists led by Professors Eric Beckers (TU Eindhoven) and Leo Kouwenhoven (TU Delft) were enrolled in 2017 in Top Magazine temper nature They made superconducting nanowires, ideal for so-called Majorana particles. As a result, a new type of quantum computer has been looming, the “computer of the future” that technicians hope will enable ultra-fast calculations, for example for climate models.

The Beckers research group in Eindhoven made the wires, while Van Koenhoven researched their quantum properties in Delft. These characteristics are less promising than claimed in the article, and it turns out that when the researchers took a closer look at the data, they are now writing in Explanation in temper nature† It appears that some measurement data has been accidentally removed or omitted from the numbers. As a result, the measurements seem to fit theory better than they actually did.

The wires were a kind of transform arena in which you could write the majorana as zeros and ones from a computer. This requires a very special and pure substance – and all this on the nanoscale, one-fiftieth of the thickness of a hair.


Similar problems surfaced last year with another article in Nature from 2018 by the same group of researchers. In it, they thought they had demonstrated Majorana particles, which in theory exhibit special quantum behaviour, for the first time. Majorana’s hunt brought Kouwenhoven scientific international fame, which was the reason for him to hire Microsoft and create a private Delft Lab. King Willem-Alexander came to personally inaugurate it in 2019.

However, the post from 2018 drew a line, when Two former employees of Kouwenhoven . showed That the evidence was soft. They also criticized the 2017 article that contributed to his withdrawal this week.

It is unclear how the errors arose. In 2018 there was a tunnel vision, The experts concluded, not intentionally. It also seems that a quantum computer running on Majorana is now out of reach. Kouwenhoven the left unexpectedly at Microsoft last month, according to the tech giant, because search will be treated differently.

“This withdrawal is indeed a major setback, especially for the participants,” Beckers said in response. Because he himself was one of those involved, he cannot provide any further explanation, as he sends via email, due to the integrity investigations conducted by TU Delft into Majorana’s publications. As a result, TU Delft earlier, assured all concerned to refrain from comment – for two years now. Beckers: “We find that annoying as well, because we like to be more open.” He says he fully supports the part of the work that has been done in Eindhoven.


Quantum professor Christian Schönenberger (University of Basel), who is not involved in the research, describes withdrawal as unnecessary and even ‘wrong’ when asked. Yes, he says, it’s not acceptable to have bits of data wrongly deleted to polish up the results, but this could have been resolved by modifying the material. It also does not detract from the exceptional quality of the nanowires. This is a great achievement worthy of the Nature publication. There seems to be a lot of publicity circulating at the moment, particularly targeting Leo Kouwenhoven.

Sergei Frolov and Vincent Murek, the two former Kouwenhoven employees who were the first to discover the Majorana’s problems, believe the withdrawal is justified. Frolov: In my research group in Pittsburgh, I also worked with these nanowires from Eindhoven. Most of them are far from almost perfect, contrary to what is claimed in the article. The measurement data we’ve seen confirms, but not all of it has been announced.

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