Published On: Sun, Mar 1st, 2015

Bar-Ilan U Researcher First to Observe ‘God Particle’ Analogue in Superconductors

The discovery of the Higgs boson verified the Standard Model, which predicted that particles gain mass by passing through a field that slows down their movement through the vacuum of space.

God Particle

Bar-Ilan U Researcher First to Observe ‘God Particle’ Analogue in Superconductors

A research team led by Israeli and German physicists associated with Bar Ilan University has reported the first-ever observations of the Higgs mode –AKA the “God Particle” — in superconducting materials.

Unlike the mega-expensive sub-atomic smashups at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider – a facility that cost about $4.75 billion to build – these findings, presented in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Physics, were achieved through experiments conducted in a regular laboratory at relatively low cost.

The discovery of the Higgs boson verified the Standard Model, which predicted that particles gain mass by passing through a field that slows down their movement through the vacuum of space.

“Just as the CERN experiments revealed the existence of the Higgs boson in a high-energy accelerator environment, we have now revealed a Higgs boson analogue in superconductors, ” says Prof. Aviad Frydman, a member of Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Physics, who directed the study together with Prof. Martin Dressel, of Stuttgart University, as part of an international collaboration that also included other research teams from Israel, India and the United States. Doctoral student Daniel Sherman, a member of Frydman’s Bar-Ilan laboratory, conducted much of the investigation and is listed as the publication’s first author.

Frydman explains that the new discovery brings the search for the Higgs boson back to its source. “Ironically, while the discussion about this ‘missing link’ in the Standard Model was inspired by superconductor theory, the Higgs mode was never actually observed in superconductors because of technical difficulties – difficulties that we’ve managed to overcome.”

In their Nature Physics publication, Frydman and his colleagues describe a new method for conducting Higgs physics experiments. “The high energy required to excite a Higgs mode in superconductors tends to break apart the electron pairs serving as this type of material’s basic charge. This causes rapid decay into particle-hole pairs, and suppresses the material’s superconducting nature, ” Frydman says. “We solved this problem by using disordered and ultra-thin superconducting films of Niobium Nitrite (NbN) and Indium Oxide (InO) near the superconductor-insulator critical point – a state in which recent theory predicted the rapid decay of the Higgs would no longer occur. This created the conditions to excite a Higgs mode at relatively low energies.”

According to Frydman, observation of the Higgs mechanism in superconductors is significant because it reveals how a single type of physical process behaves under drastically different energy conditions.

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