Acrobatics for anyons: New test for elusive fundamental particle proposed

Anyons are hypothetical particles that have been postulated to represent a third class of fundamental particles alongside the known bosons and fermions. Physicists from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich, Germany, have now proposed a novel experimental design that should make it possible to create and detect them for the first time.

In quantum physics there are two classes of fundamental particles. Photons, the of light, are bosons, while the and that make up belong to the . Bosons and fermions differ in their behavior at a very basic level. This difference is expressed in their quantum statistics. In the 1980s a third species of fundamental particle was postulated, which was dubbed the anyon. In their quantum statistics, anyons interpolate between bosons and fermions.

"They would be a kind of missing link between the two known sorts of ," says LMU physicist Dr. Tassilo Keilmann. "According to the laws of , anyons must exist – but so far it hasn't been possible to detect them experimentally."

An international team of theorists under Keilmann's leadership has now taken an in-depth look at the question of whether it is possible to create anyons in the context of a realistic experiment. Happily for experimentalists, the answer is yes. The theoreticians have come up with an experimental design in which conventional atoms are trapped in a so-called optical lattice. Based on their calculations, it ought to be possible to manipulate the interactions between atoms in the lattice in such a way as to create and detect anyons. In contrast to the behavior of bosons and fermions, the exotic statistics of anyons should be continuously variable between the endpoints defined by the other two particle types.

"These novel quantum particles should be able to hop between sites in the optical lattice," says Keilmann. "More importantly, they and their quantum statistics should be continuously adjustable during the experiment." In that case, it might even be feasible to transmute bosons into anyons and then to turn these into fermions. Such a transition would be equivalent to a novel "statistically induced quantum phase transition", and would allow the anyons to be used for the construction of quantum computers that would be far more efficient than conventional electronic processors. "We have pointed to the first practical route to the detection of anyons," says Keilmann. "Experimentalists should be able to implement the set-up in the course of experiments that are already underway."

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More information: Statistically induced Phase Transitions and Anyons in 1D Optical Lattices, Tassilo Keilmann, Simon Lanzmich, Ian McCulloch & Marco Roncaglia, Nature Communications,
Provided by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen
Citation: Acrobatics for anyons: New test for elusive fundamental particle proposed (2011, June 21) retrieved 22 May 2019 from
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User comments

Jun 21, 2011
This seems like an incredibly simple test for something that has eluded us for some time... is something important missing from this abstract of the article?

Jun 21, 2011
Efimov theorized an analog to the Boromean rings using particles: Three particles could be bound together in a stable state, even though any two of them could not bind without the third. The physicist first proposed the idea, based on a mathematical proof, in 1970. In 2006, a group in Austria found the first example of such a so-called Efimov state in a cold gas of cesium atoms.

Apparently some physicists should unite their terminology.

Jun 21, 2011
Is there anything that CAN'T be used to help construct the fabled and omniscient quantum computer?

Also, does this experiment seek to find actual particles, or some sort of vibratory quantum state hopping and morphing between the atoms - kind of like that guy that "found" "magnetic monopoles"?

Jun 21, 2011
If a method could be found to entrain large numbers of particles in this phase transition, say, from fermion to boson, impart some vectored force of propulsion, and then reverse the phase, and that process could be scaled over a distance, then matter transmission would have been achieved.

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