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Majorana Fermion Finally Discovered

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 11:05AM

When quantum mechanics was first being developed and scientists were first discovering the math that rules it, many interesting predictions were made. Some of these predictions have since proven true, but one has been particularly stubborn. The Majorana fermion is a particle that exists as its own antiparticle and finally, researchers at Princeton University and the University of Texas-Austin have proven its existence.

As the name suggests, antimatter is the opposite of normal matter, and when they collide, they will annihilate each other. The Majorana fermion is an exception to that rule, and was first described in 1937. This particle actually possesses properties of both normal and antimatter, making it neutral and keeping its interaction with its environment weak. In 2001 it was outlined how a Majorana fermion could be used as a qubit in quantum computers, which would benefit greatly from the weak interactions, and a new way to find it using a superconducting wire and a strong magnetic field.

The Princeton researchers constructed their superconducting wire out of iron atoms, aligned on a crystal of pure lead, and cooled it to just one degree above absolute zero. With a scanning-tunneling microscope, the researchers were able to image electrical signals at the tips of the wire, suggesting the presence of Majorana fermions, but only by imaging the rest of the wire, and showing the signals were only at the ends, the researchers were able to directly demonstrate they had created the elusive particle. Ironically the researchers also discovered that producing these particles is easier than they expected, provided the magnetism and superconductivity are present. Based on this, and their already simple setup, the researchers predict many more materials could be used to produce these particles, which could prove invaluable in the creation of quantum computers.

Source: Princeton University

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