Scientists observe a particle that is its own antiparticle

A discovery that may assist researchers encode information for quantum computers, scientists of Princeton University have observed an exotic particle that behaves simultaneously like matter and antimatter.

PTI| Last Updated: Oct 03, 2014, 20:29 PM IST

New York: A discovery that may assist researchers encode information for quantum computers, scientists of Princeton University have observed an exotic particle that behaves simultaneously like matter and antimatter.

The feat is very significant as scientists had been searching for such particles that are simultaneously matter and antimatter since the 1930s.

Using a two-story-tall microscope floating in an ultralow-vibration lab at Princeton's Jadwin Hall, the scientists captured a glowing image of a particle known as a "Majorana fermion" perched at the end of an atomically thin wire just where it had been predicted to be after decades of study and calculation dating back to the 1930s.

"This is the most direct way of looking for the Majorana fermion since it is expected to emerge at the edge of certain materials," Ali Yazdani, a professor of physics who led the research team said.

"If you want to find this particle within a material you have to use such a microscope, which allows you to see where it actually is," said Yazdani.

In 1937, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana predicted that a single, stable particle could be both matter and antimatter. Although many forms of antimatter have since been observed, the Majorana combination remained elusive.

The findings, which appeared in the journal Science, offers scientists a potentially major advance in the pursuit of quantum computing. In quantum computing, electrons are coaxed into representing not only the ones and zeroes of conventional computers but also a strange quantum state that is both a one and a zero.