April 27 - Newly discovered Majorana particles are scientists' best chance to create subatomic supercomputers that could store as many pieces of information as there are particles in the universe. The discovery was made by researchers in the Netherlands who say it could be applied to make today's computer technology obsolete. Jim Drury reports.
An artist's conception of the Majorana - a previously elusive subatomic particle whose existence has never been confirmed - until now. Dutch nano-scientists at the technological universities of Delft and Eindhoven, say they have found evidence of the particle. To find it, they devised miniscule circuitry around a microscopic wire in contact with a semiconductor and a superconductor. Lead researcher Leo Kouwenhoven. SOUNDBITE (English), NANOSCIENTIST OF DELFT UNIVERSITY, LEO KOUWENHOVEN, SAYING: "The samples that we use for measuring the Majorana fermions are really very small, you can see the holder of the sample, the sample is actually inside here and if you zoom in, you can actually see little wires and if you zoom in more, you see a very small nano-meter scale sample, where we detected one pair of Majoranas." When a magnetic field was applied along the the 'nanowire', electrons gathered together in synchrony as a Majorana particle. These subatomic particles could be used to encode information, turning them into data to be used inside a tiny, quantum computer. SOUNDBITE (English), NANOSCIENTIST OF DELFT UNIVERSITY, LEO KOUWENHOVEN, SAYING: "The goal is actually to develop those nano-scale devices into little circuits and actually make something like a quantum computer out of it, so they have special properties that could be very useful for computation, a particural kind of computation which we call quantum computation, which would replace actually our current computers by computers that are much more efficient than what we have now." The Majorana fermion's existence was first predicted 75 years ago by Italian Ettore Majorana. Probing the Majorana's particles could allow scientists to understand better the mysterious realm of quantum mechanics. Other groups working in solid state physics are thought to be close to making similar announcements....heralding a new era in super-powerful computer technology. Were he alive today Majorana may well be amazed at the sophisticated computer technology available to ordinary people in every day life. But compared to the revolution his particle may be about to spark, it will seem old fashioned in the not too distant future. Jim Drury, Reuters