|Nabbed. This oddball transistor with a normal metal electrode (N) and a superconducting electrode (S) registered signs of Majorana fermions at the two ends of a nanowire spanning the electrodes. |
Credit: V. Mourik et al
Prior to Majorana's work, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger came up with an equation that describes how quantum particles behave and interact. Paul Dirac, an English physicist, tweaked that equation to apply it to fermions, such as electrons, moving at near-light speed. That work tied together quantum mechanics and Einstein's special theory of relativity. It also implied the existence of antimatter, where every particle has an antimatter counterpart—such as electrons and positrons—and that the two would annihilate each other if they ever met. Dirac's work suggested that some particles, such as photons, could serve as their own antiparticles. But fermions weren't thought to be among them. It was Majorana's manipulations of Dirac's equations that suggested the possible existence of a new type of fermion that could serve as its own antiparticle.
Science Mag: Physicists Discover New Type of Particle--Sort Of