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Physicists Prove the Existence of Anyons, a Type of Quasi-Particle that only Arise in Two Dimensions

wallpapers News 2020-11-02

Predicted by theorists almost four decades ago, anyons are particle-like entities that only arise in two-dimensional realms at temperatures near absolute zero and in the presence of a strong magnetic field. Beyond theoretical implications, learning of the (non)existence of anyons could also be important to quantum computing in the future.

The first piece of confirmatory evidence came in April when researchers from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris sent an electron gas through a tiny particle collider to identify any unusual behaviours that could only occur in the presence of anyons.

The decades-old predictions of MIT’s Fred Wilczek have recently came true with his colleagues publishing two separate papers lending evidence to the existince of the particle-like objects known as anyons. Image: Ecole polytechnique via flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0

A few months later, a group at Purdue University in Indiana managed to route electrons through a maze-like etched nanostructure that was cooled to near absolute zero and subjected to a strong magnetic field, detecting a signature interference pattern that suggested the presence of anyons.

“It’s gorgeous work that makes the field blossom,” said MIT physicist Frank Wilczek who described and named the hypothetical entity back in the early 1980s. According to him, the first study proved the existence of anyons, while the second one provided a more robust, detailed account of their properties.

Humorously named due to their ability to adopt “any” quantum phase when their positions are exchanged, anyons belong to the quasiparticle class, which means they have measurable properties like a particle, but can only be observed as a result of the collective behaviour of their conventional counterparts.

Unlike fermions and bosons – the two types of elementary particles in the known universe – however, anyons exhibit something analogous to particle memory. Whereas particles of the aforesaid two classes can orbit each other without changes in their quantum state, whenever an anyon moves around another, there is a shift in the quantum state of the entire collective.

Since a return to their original state can take up to five or more revolutions – constituting a kind of memory of the trip – physicists could use anyons for storing data in quantum computers, as most quantum states are much less durable and more prone to errors.

Wilczek envisions anyons as representatives of an entire “kingdom” with countless exotic varieties, as well as tools for the discovery of other exciting, as yet unknown, states of matter in the universe.


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