Physicists simulate for the first time charged Majorana particles

May 27, 2015
Alexander Szameit of the University Jena (Germany) and his team developed a photonic set-up that can simulate non-physical processes in a laboratory. Credit: Jan-Peter Kasper/FSU

Physicists of Jena University simulate for the first time charged Majorana particles—elementary particles, which are not supposed to exist. In the new edition of the science magazine Optica they explain their approach: Professor Dr. Alexander Szameit and his team developed a photonic set-up that consists of complex waveguide circuits engraved in a glass chip, which enables them to simulate charged Majorana particles and, thus, allows to conduct physical experiments.

Jena (Germany) March 1938: The Italian physicist Ettore Majorana boarded a post ship in Naples, heading for Palermo. But he either never arrives there - or he leaves the city straight away - ever since that day there has been no trace of the exceptional scientist and until today his mysterious disappearance remains unresolved. Since then, Majorana, a pupil of the Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi, has more or less been forgotten. What the scientific world does remember though is a theory about nuclear forces, which he developed, and a very particular elementary particle.

"This particle named after Majorana, the so-called Majoranon, has some amazing characteristics", the physicist Professor Dr. Alexander Szameit of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena says. "Characteristics which are not supposed to be existent in our real world." Majorana are, for instance, their own antiparticles: Internally they combine completely opposing characteristics - like opposing charges and spins. If they were to exist, they would extinguish themselves immediately. "Therefore, Majoranons are of an entirely theoretical nature and cannot be measured in experiments."

Together with colleagues from Austria, India, and Singapore, Alexander Szameit and his team succeeded in realizing the impossible. In the new edition of the science magazine Optica they explain their approach: Szameit and his team developed a photonic set-up that consists of complex waveguide circuits engraved in a , which enables them to simulate charged Majorana particles and, thus, allows to conduct .

"At the same time we send two rays of light through parallel running waveguide lattices, which show the opposing characteristics separately," explains Dr. Robert Keil, the first author of the study. After evolution through the lattices, the two waves interfere and form an optical Majoranon, which can be measured as a light distribution. Thus, the scientists create an image that catches this effect like a photograph - in this case the state of a Majoranon at a defined moment in time. "With the help of many of such single images the particles can be observed like in a film and their behaviour can be analyzed," says Keil.

This model allows the Jena scientists to enter completely unknown scientific territory, as Alexander Szameit stresses. "Now, it is possible for us to gain access to phenomena that so far only have been described in exotic theories." With the help of this system, one can conduct experiments in which conservation of charge - one of the pillars of modern physics - can easily be suspended. "Our results show that one can simulate non-physical processes in a laboratory and, thus, can make practical use of exotic characteristics of particles that are impossible to observe in nature." Szameit foresees one particular promising application of simulated Majoranons in a new generation of quantum computers. "With this approach, much higher computing capacities than are possible at the moment can be achieved."

Explore further: Quantum scientists break aluminium 'monopoly' (Update)

More information: Keil R. et al. Optical simulation of charge conservation violation and Majorana dynamics. Optica, Vol. 2, Issue 5, pp. 454-459 (2015), DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.2.000454

Related Stories

Quantum scientists break aluminium 'monopoly' (Update)

May 25, 2015

A Majorana fermion, or a Majorana particle, is a fermion that is its own antiparticle. Discovering the Majorana was the first step, but utilizing it as a quantum bit (qubit) still remains a major challenge. An important step ...

Researchers find possible evidence of Majorana fermions

April 13, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Researchers working out of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have constructed a device that appears to offer some evidence of the existence of Majorana fermions; the elusive particles that are ...

Third research team close to creating Majorana fermion

March 16, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Recently there has been a virtual explosion of research efforts aimed at creating the elusive Majorana fermion with different groups claiming to be near to creating them. First there was news that a team ...

Theoretical physicists probe the Majorana mystery

August 1, 2012

(Phys.org) -- With headlines proclaiming the discovery of the Higgs boson particle physics has captured the imagination of the world, particularly among those who dwell on the nature of the cosmos. But this is only one puzzle ...

Recommended for you

New type of electron lens for next-generation colliders

October 18, 2017

Sending bunches of protons speeding around a circular particle collider to meet at one specific point is no easy feat. Many different collider components work keep proton beams on course—and to keep them from becoming unruly.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

charlimopps
not rated yet May 27, 2015
I just read up on his disappearance. They reopened the case and apparently found him? Maybe? I can't read Italian: http://en.wikiped...the_case The pictures sure look like the same man though.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.