Anyon : Particles of two dimensions
Image by Tomislav Jakupec from Pixabay

We all know that our world consists of fundamental particles like protons, electrons and neutrons. The world we see is not actually what it is. There are numerous particles interacting among each other to surprise us with many natural phenomena and it is the work of a physicist to get to the bottom of it. 

However, particles like protons and electrons are not the only particles out there. There are mainly two groups of particles, fermions and bosons. But our focus, today, is on a different particle called anyon, which was discovered recently and its existence might prove to be another discovery which can revolutionise our world.

The Standard Model of Particle Physics

Before coming to anyons, let us get to the standard model of particle physics. The Standard Model of particle physics was formulated and evolved through the years. Scientists worked on this throughout the latter half of the 20th Century. Just as we know, the periodic table tries to give a complete description of all elements, the standard model of particle physics tries to provide us with a complete description of particle physics.

The Standard model can describe three out of four fundamental forces(excluding gravity) and physicists have been trying to extend it to a theory of everything. It has been able to make predictions on new particles like the existence of quarks and Higgs Boson, and their experimental verifications have added credibility to the model. But it is still not complete as it cannot explain all phenomena such as baryon asymmetry, gravitons and dark matter.

The Standard Model is not directly related to the topic covered here(anyons), but I wanted to include this for background knowledge and to get the feel of the study of elementary particles.

What are anyon quasiparticles?

You might be a bit surprised by the heading. First, it was anyons and now it’s anyon quasiparticles? This is quite understandable as you haven’t taken a course in quantum mechanics or statistical physics and it is my mission to share the knowledge so that new people can learn, but this cannot replace the education provided by a university. So let me brief you in with quasiparticles.

Quasiparticles are emergent phenomena that usually occur inside a solid and the solid behaves as if it contains some particles interacting between themselves. For example, phonons are quasiparticles that represent sound waves. They are not basically particles but a composed entity of quantum characteristics which result in a particle-like behaviour. Thus, quasiparticles are not elementary particles and they fit in neither of the two groups of fundamental particles(fermions and bosons). Hence, it is not a limitation of the Standard Model to not have a place for accommodating anyons.

Now, coming to the definition which we have all been waiting for! The anyon is a particle which is different from a fermion and boson as it exists only in two-dimensions. Now what is the meaning of that? As we already know, we live in the three dimensional world. We have height, breadth and width. In case of a straight line, it has only one dimension as it has values which only change along the line it follows and do not depend on any external factors. For two dimensions, we can consider a paper which has height and breadth. Hence, it is the uniqueness of anyons that they exist only in two dimensions.

Anyons were first predicted by Frank Wilczek and gave the name anyons in the year 1982. However their existence was proven very recently by two experiments conducted in the year 2020. Anyon is different from other fundamental particles due to a specific ability called braiding.

Anyons and braiding

Before we continue, let us discuss another thing called the wavefunction of a particle. The wavefunction is a mathematical expression associated with a particle containing its necessary information so that we can measure its quantities like angular momentum, energy etc. No two particles have the same wavefunction

In fermions, when we swap two particles, their wavefunctions change signs. In bosons, the value of wavefunctions do not change. Briefly speaking, after swapping twice, the value of wavefunctions come back to original regardless of being fermions or bosons.

In case of anyons, their collective quantum state shifts. This is a unique feature of two dimensional systems. After swapping twice, their wavefunction might still be different. It might come back to the original value after a few more swaps. This is called braiding. It also creates a record of change of wavefunctions and exhibits a property like particle memory which make anyons more useful.

Conclusion

It can be said without a doubt that anyons are unique! Their properties make them different from other particles. Though interesting, it has been wandering in the realms of theoretical physics for quite some time now. It has been ignored for years and was regarded by many as fiction. It is therefore, very important for us to choose what we believe in and for that, we need to develop our thinking, hone our skills, strive to become better again and again so that we can learn to judge for ourselves.

Anyon quantum computing can bring another revolution as anyon braiding can be a much useful technique for creating quantum computers. As we know, quantum computers are exponentially faster than the fastest supercomputer in existence but it uses trapped quantum particles which can result in errors. Anyons, however, are not prone to error and can be a much better option for the future quantum computers if they can be applied successfully. 

Now, it is time for scientists to be able to make use of anyons and create another big impact in our lives. They will again become the unsung heroes of the civilization after a few years as it cannot be denied that science has the most impact on everyone’s life. But we tend to ignore this fact. The fact that you are reading this article by using your PC or mobile is itself an undeniable testament to my words. Hence, it is important for us to know the science in daily lives, to know what is happening in today’s world of science, to know about the important scientists discovering particles like anyon. So, I ask you to know about scientists and their impact to the world as it is the least we can do to give them something back and grow ourselves as responsible citizens of the world.

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