NEWS

Search for Majorana Fermions Nearing Success at Last?

Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 193-195
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6026.193

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Summary

In most materials, defects, impurities, and other imperfections generate too much noise for researchers to spot the vanishingly small signals of ephemeral subatomic particles. Even so, one of the most fleeting of all may be on the point of discovery, more than 70 years after it was first proposed. In recent years, theoretical physicists have suggested that a handful of exotic materials could give rise to this never-before-seen type of particle, known as a Majorana fermion. Now experimental groups around the world are racing to spot it, using devices made in most cases with superconducting materials. And it looks as if some groups are closing in fast or may even have bagged Majoranas already. If they exist, the novel particles are expected to display fundamentally new properties that could open a new window into the mysterious world of quantum mechanics. Their behavior is also expected to make Majorana fermions ideally suited to be stable bits of information in a quantum computer, something that has eluded researchers for decades.