Fundamental Particle â€˜Splitsâ€™ into Quasiparticles
In a feat of technical mastery, condensed-matter physicists have managed to detect the elusive third constituent of an electron â€” its ‘orbiton’. The achievement could help to resolve a long-standing mystery about the origin of high-temperature superconductivity, and aid in the construction of quantum computers.
Isolated electrons cannot be split into smaller components, earning them the designation of a fundamental particle. But in the 1980s, physicists predicted that electrons in a one-dimensional chain of atoms could be split into three quasiparticles: a â€˜holonâ€™ carrying the electronâ€™s charge, a â€˜spinonâ€™ carrying its spin (an intrinsic quantum property related to magnetism) and an â€˜orbitonâ€™ carrying its orbital location.