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Elusive particle shows up in ‘semimetal’

Weyl fermions detected in tantalum arsenide

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2:00pm, July 16, 2015

A kind of particle first predicted to exist before the discovery of Pluto has been spotted on Earth within a compound of tantalum and arsenic.

The newly discovered particles, known as Weyl fermions, resemble massless electrons that dart around and through the material in unusual and exciting ways, researchers report July 16 in Science.

“It’s definitely a big deal,” says Leon Balents, a condensed matter theorist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The particles’ behavior makes tantalum arsenide a metal-like compound that shares desirable features with graphene and topological insulators, materials that have attracted a torrent of research attention over the last decade or so. “There are a lot of reasons to be interested in these materials,” Balents says.

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