Chinese scientists have successfully revealed the mystery of the Majorana fermion, a special type of elementary particle, and their observations are likely to trigger a new round of work toward quantum computers.
In physics, the elementary particle is basic - the smallest known unit of matter. In general, each elementary particle has its own antiparticle.
Over the past eight decades, particle physicists around the world have invested a lot of energy in an effort to prove the existence of a special type of elementary particle, the Majorana fermion, or MF, which was suggested by Italian scientist Ettore Majorana in 1937.
Most recently, a research team led by Jia Jinfeng, a physicist at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, announced that it had lifted the veil of the mysterious MF by observing its tracks for the first time in the magnetic field vortices of a superconductor.
According to the research team, the specific spin of the polarized current caused by the MF has been clearly observed.
"The experimental data are strongly supported by the theoretical calculations. This work gives definite evidence for the existence of the MF," Jia said.
According to Jia, this is the first time researchers have observed the spin properties of the MF.
As a major breakthrough in the field of quantum physics, the discovery is expected to generate new avenues of research and MF application, especially the possibility of achieving advanced quantum computing using solid state materials.
Unlike an ordinary computer, which processes data in binary mode, a quantum computer deals with data based on a quantum physics mechanism at incredible speeds.
For example, quantum computing could significantly increase the accuracy of weather forecasting and carry out systematic, precise and efficient calculation on various new materials, bringing revolutionary progress in materials science.
So far scientists have failed to develop a quantum computer because of the unstable state of the particles. Electromagnetic interference or physical interference can easily disturb calculations.
"Protected by the topological order, the MF is very stable. These properties may become key factors in developing topological quantum computing," said Wang Xi, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The research was published in Physical Review Letters online.
Source: China Daily