Scientists have discovered proof of a strange particle that strangely enough is also its own antiparticle. Even though it was initially postulated 80 years ago, it now seems that it just could be true.
Scientists from the University of California and Stanford University in California performed the research that was published in the journal Science.
A particle might have its own antiparticle, according to a notion initially put out in 1937 by Italian scientist Ettore Majorana (who suddenly vanished in 1938). According to him, certain particles in the fermion class, which includes protons, electrons, and neutrons, ought to have unique antiparticles. These particles later came to be known as Majorana particles.
A particle with the same mass as a normal particle but the opposite electric or magnetic properties is said to be an antiparticle. The positron, for instance, is the antiparticle of the electron. If the two come into contact, they destroy one another.
In this study, a current of electricity was sent through two thin films of quantum materials that were placed on top of one another in a frigid vacuum chamber. The bottom layer was a magnetic topological insulator, whereas the top film was a superconductor.
The scientists then managed to alter the electrons' speed by passing a magnet across the stack. This led to the emergence of pairs of electrons and what seemed to be Majorana quasiparticles at some places. The flow of the individual quasiparticles may always be detected by deflecting one away.
However, the researchers point out that they didn't precisely detect Majorana particles. As opposed to Majorana particles, they saw what Giorgio Gratta, a professor of physics at Stanford, called "basically excitations in a material."crossorigin="anonymous">
It's also unclear if these particles may genuinely arise naturally, which is confounding. They're very improbable to happen in the universe, but who are we to say? put in Gratta. A "chiral" fermion, a specific form of Majorana quasiparticle they believe to have been discovered, travels along a one-dimensional route in just one direction.
The evidence of Majorana particles is thus described by the researchers as "smoking gun" proof. Although independent study is still being conducted to determine if neutrinos are their own antiparticles, it has already been hypothesized that they may be.
According to Stanford professor Shoucheng Zhan, a senior author on the article, "Our team anticipated precisely where to locate the Majorana fermion and what to look for as its'smoking gun' experimental signature." With this finding, one of the most exhaustive searches in basic physics, which lasted precisely 80 years, has been successfully concluded.