Neutrons zero in on the elusive magnetic Majorana fermion
Date: Friday, June 09, 2017 @ 10:08:18 EDT
Topic: Science

As neutrons (blue line) scatter off the graphene-like honeycomb material, they produce a magnetic Majorana fermion (green wave) that moves through the material disrupting or breaking apart magnetic interactions between 'spinning' electrons. Credit: ORNL/Jill Hemman

Neutron scattering has revealed in unprecedented detail new insights into the exotic magnetic behavior of a material that, with a fuller understanding, could pave the way for quantum calculations far beyond the limits of the ones and zeros of a computer's binary code.

A research team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has confirmed magnetic signatures likely related to Majorana fermions—elusive particles that could be the basis for a quantum bit, or qubit, in a two-dimensional graphene-like material, alpha-ruthenium trichloride. The results, published in the journal Science, verify and extend a 2016 Nature Materials study in which the team of researchers from ORNL, University of Tennessee, Max Planck Institute and Cambridge University first proposed this unusual behavior in the material.

"This research is a promise delivered," said lead author Arnab Banerjee, a postdoctoral researcher at ORNL. "Before, we suggested that this compound, alpha-ruthenium trichloride, showed the physics of Majorana fermions, but the material we used was a powder and obscured many important details. Now, we're looking at a large single crystal that confirms that the unusual magnetic spectrum is consistent with the idea of magnetic Majorana fermions."

Majorana fermions were theorized in 1937 by physicist Ettore Majorana. They are unique in that, unlike electrons and protons whose antiparticle counterparts are the positron and the antiproton, particles with equal but opposite charges, Majorana fermions are their own antiparticle and have no charge...

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