Anyone who has watched those science fiction movies where starships fly around at top speeds knows that the characters will talk about how their anti-matter fuel or pods or whatever are either running out, need replacements, or are about to explode. That’s because anti-matter, a real particle is grist-for-the-mill regarding the imaginative writers who come up with these stories.
Theorized but only discovered in the late 20th century, anti-matter was thought to cause an explosion of power when it met a particle of matter. It’s rare but scientists have been able to maintain it for brief periods of time but there was one physicist who postulated that there would be a particle that would be made up of matter and anti-matter and his name was Ettore Majorana.
In 1937, Majorana postulated this theory and it took 70 years for it to come true. This breakthrough was reported in the October issue of Science Magazine.
One of the greatest breakthroughs of the modern era or of any era, Majorana’s particle, now named after him, the Majorana Particle, was imaged by Professor Ali Yazdani of Princeton University and their team of colleagues. In order to image the particle they actually had to build a microscope that is two stories tall. They used simple materials to see if they could capture the then mythical particle. They placed a long chain of iron atoms onto a superconductor. The iron atoms are magnetic. The magnetic properties of the iron atoms disrupted the free flow of electrons. In a superconductor there is no magnetic field. The superconductor then became specialized so that electrons next to each other actually coordinated their spins to simultaneously align with the magnetism and the cold of the superconductor. This means that each electron pair can be called as an electron and an anti-electron. Negative and positive charge, however at the end of the chain one electron is left without a pair and thus creates the properties of electrons and anti-electrons aka Majorana particles.
The applications of this discovery are first being pointed at making quantum computing but there are other applications as well. Much more research has to be done and in years to come the name of Majorana will be at the tops of the physics pantheon.