An elusive particle that is its own antiparticle may have been found, and, if confirmed, would be the first time a phenomenon predicted decades ago has been seen in a real system. Some researchers suggest that in the future, this mysterious particle called a Majorana fermion could be useful in carrying bits of information in quantum computers.
In a paper published in the journal Science Thursday, Vincent Mourik and Leo P. Kouwenhoven said they were able to make the Majorana fermions appear by exposing a small circuit to a magnetic field. Until now, the only suggestion of the particle’s existence was a theory posed by Italian physicist Ettore Majorana in 1937, who predicted the Majorana fermion.
While the evidence is strong, there are still more experiments to do to confirm the finding. But that may be fitting: Majorana himself was, by many accounts, a brilliant physicist. But in 1938, he took a boat trip from Naples to Palermo and disappeared. His body was never found, and the circumstances of his disappearance have remained mysterious.
Unlike more conventional particles, Majoranas are “quasiparticles,” which arise from the collective properties of a material. This happens in more ordinary areas as well; for example, in solid-state electronics, electrons carry negative charges, while they leave behind “holes” with a positive charge; these holes behave just like real particles, even though they appear only because of the behavior of electrons.
If the finding is confirmed, Majoranas offer an easier way of storing information in quantum computers, which currently rely on atoms; these atoms become unstable with even a small disturbance, while Majoranas would be much easier to keep stable.
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Source: Yahoo News
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