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Matter, Anti-Matter Rolled into One: Scientists Observe Exotic Particle

Update Date: Oct 03, 2014 04:49 PM EDT
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Rare Sighitng
Researchers at Princeton have reported sighting a rare particle that is said to exhibit properties of both matter and anti-matter. (Photo : Getty Images)

In what is being hailed as a major breakthrough in particle physics, scientists have reported observing a particle with both matter and anti-matter properties.

The Times of India reported the observation of the particle Majorana Fermion by Princeton University particle physicists, decades after its discovery. Researchers also termed their methods of observations as simplest way to look at the particle, which was found at the end of an anatomically thin wire.

"Despite combining qualities usually thought to annihilate each other - matter and antimatter - the Majorana fermion is surprisingly stable; rather than being destructive, the conflicting properties render the particle neutral so that it interacts very weakly with its environment. This aloofness has spurred scientists to search for ways to engineer the Majorana into materials, which could provide a much more stable way of encoding quantum information, and thus a new basis for quantum computing," news release from Princeton reads.

The search for Majorana fermion began during the formative years of quantum theory when Italian physicists Ettore Majorana postulated the existence of single stable particle exhibiting properties of matter and anti-matter.

"This is the most direct way of looking for the Majorana fermion since it is expected to emerge at the edge of certain materials. 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 Ali Yazdani, professor of physics and lead researcher.

The findings may accelerate pursuit of quantum computing. The state of quantum superposition, where are particle can represent a quantum state that is both zero and one (as in computer bits), may help solve previously unsolved problems. Other benefits also exist.

"Scientists regard Majoranas as possible candidates for dark matter, the mysterious substance that is thought to account for most matter in the universe, but which has not been directly observed because it also does not directly interact with other particles," the release said.

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