In a groundbreaking finding that successfully ends an 80-year quest, Stanford, and University of California researchers have discovered evidence of particles that act as their own antiparticles. The so-called ‘Majorana fermions’ could help one day build powerful quantum computers.
80 years after the so called Angell Particle” was proposed by physicists, experts have finally found it proving the existence of a particle which is matter and anti matter at the same time.
It was in 1928 when physicist Paul Dirac made an extraordinary prediction: each and every one of the fundamental particles of the Universe has an “antiparticle,” a twin identical to them but with an opposite electric charge. So that, when a particle meets its antiparticle, both annihilate, producing a brief flash of energy. Just a few years later, the first anti-matter, the positron (opposed to the electron), was found by scientists, and antimatter quickly became part of popular culture.
Nearly a decade later, in 1937, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana, offered a new twist to the situation by predicting that in the class of particles known as fermions—which includes the proton, neutron, electron, neutrino, and quark—there should be particles that act as their own antiparticles.
Now 90 years later, scientists have come across the first evidence of the elusive particle in what is being hailed by scientists as a landmark moment in quantum physics. Physicists managed to detect the first evidence that the “fermions of Majorana” actually exist.
The groundbreaking discovery came after a series of experiments were performed with exotic materials in laboratories at the University of California, and in collaboration with scientists at Stanford University.
The results of the experiments, led by professors Jing Xia and Kang Wang, followed a step by step plan elaborated by Shoucheng Zhang of Stanford and was just published in Science.
Speaking about the history changing discovery, Professor Shoucheng Zhang from Standford said:
“Our team predicted exactly where to find the Majorana fermion and what to look for as it’s ‘smoking gun’ experimental signature,” said Zhang, a theoretical physicist and one of the senior authors of the research paper.
“This discovery concludes one of the most intensive searches in fundamental physics, which spanned exactly 80 years.”
So… what does all of this mean for the real world? Well, while the search for the “Fermion” was of a more intellectual than practical nature, Professor Zhang said that the finding could have real-life implications for creating robust quantum computers in the future.
But in order to find the ultimate evidence that Fermions do exist, experts needed to find ‘quasi-particles’—which are particle-like excitations that result from the behavior of superconducting materials.
Quasiparticles are not like ordinary particles found in nature, but they do however meet the necessary mathematical requirements to be considered as real Majorana fermions.
Learn more about the discovery of the Angle Particle here.