Magnetic monopole

Magnetic monopole
It is impossible to make magnetic monopoles from a bar magnet. If a bar magnet is cut in half, it is not the case that one half has the north pole and the other half has the south pole. Instead, each piece has its own north and south poles. A magnetic monopole cannot be created from normal matter such as atoms and electrons, but would instead be a new elementary particle.

A magnetic monopole is a hypothetical particle in particle physics that is a magnet with only one magnetic pole (a north pole without a south pole or vice-versa).[1][2] In more technical terms, a magnetic monopole would have a net "magnetic charge". Modern interest in the concept stems from particle theories, notably the grand unified and superstring theories, which predict their existence.[3][4] Magnetism in bar magnets and electromagnets does not arise from magnetic monopoles, and in fact there is no conclusive experimental evidence that magnetic monopoles exist at all in the universe.

Many early scientists attributed the magnetism of lodestones to two different "magnetic fluids" ("effluvia"), a north-pole fluid at one end and a south-pole fluid at the other, which attracted and repelled each other in analogy to positive and negative electric charge.[5][6] However, an improved understanding of electromagnetism in the nineteenth century showed that the magnetism of lodestones was caused by something else, not magnetic monopole fluids. It was concluded that magnetic monopoles did not exist: One of Maxwell's equations, now called Gauss's law for magnetism, is the mathematical statement that there are no magnetic monopoles. Nevertheless, it was pointed out by Pierre Curie in 1894[7] that magnetic monopoles could conceivably exist, despite not having been seen so far.

The quantum theory of magnetic charge started with a paper by the physicist Paul A.M. Dirac in 1931.[8] In this paper, Dirac showed that if any magnetic monopoles exist in the universe, then all electric charge in the universe must be quantized.[9] The electric charge is, in fact, quantized, which suggests (but does not necessarily prove) that monopoles exist.[9]

Since Dirac's paper, several systematic monopole searches have been performed. Experiments in 1975[10] and 1982[11] produced candidate events that were initially interpreted as monopoles, but are now regarded as inconclusive.[12] Therefore, it remains an open question whether or not monopoles exist.

Further advances in theoretical particle physics, particularly developments in grand unified theories and quantum gravity, have led to more compelling arguments that monopoles do exist. Joseph Polchinski, a prominent string-theorist, described the existence of monopoles as "one of the safest bets that one can make about physics not yet seen".[13] These theories are not necessarily inconsistent with the experimental evidence. In some theoretical models, magnetic monopoles are unlikely to be observed, because they are too massive to be created in particle accelerators, and also too rare in the Universe to enter a particle detector with much probability.[13]

Some condensed matter systems propose a structure superficially similar to a magnetic monopole, known as a flux tube. The ends of a flux tube form a magnetic dipole, but since they move independently, they can be treated for many purposes as independent magnetic monopole quasiparticles. Since 2009, numerous news reports from the popular media have incorrectly described these systems as the long-awaited discovery of the magnetic monopoles, but the two phenomena are only superficially related to one another.[14] These condensed-matter systems continue to be an area of active research. (See "Monopoles" in condensed-matter systems below.)



Magnets exert forces on one another, similar to the force associated with electric charges. Like poles will repel each other, and unlike poles will attract. When any magnet (an object conventionally described as having magnetic north and south poles) is cut in half across the axis joining those "poles", the resulting pieces are two normal (albeit smaller) magnets. Each has its own north pole and south pole.

Even atoms and subatomic particles have tiny magnetic fields. In the Bohr model of an atom, electrons orbit the nucleus. Their constant motion gives rise to a magnetic field. Permanent magnets have measurable magnetic fields because the atoms and molecules in them are arranged in such a way that their individual magnetic fields align, combining to form large aggregate fields. In this model, the lack of a single pole makes intuitive sense: cutting a bar magnet in half does nothing to the arrangement of the molecules within. The end result is two bar magnetics whose atoms have the same orientation as before, and therefore generate a magnetic field with the same orientation as the original larger magnet.

Maxwell's equations

Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism relate the electric and magnetic fields to each other and to the motions of electric charges. The standard equations provide for electric charges, but they posit no magnetic charges. Except for this difference, the equations are symmetric under the interchange of the electric and magnetic fields.[15] In fact, symmetric Maxwell's equations can be written when all charges (and hence electric currents) are zero, and this is how the electromagnetic wave equation is derived.

Fully symmetric Maxwell's equations can also be written if one allows for the possibility of "magnetic charges" analogous to electric charges.[16] With the inclusion of a variable for the density of these magnetic charges, say ρm, there will also be a "magnetic current density" variable in the equations, jm.

If magnetic charges do not exist - or if they do exist but are not present in a region of space - then the new terms in Maxwell's equations are all zero, and the extended equations reduce to the conventional equations of electromagnetism such as B = 0 (where is divergence and B is the magnetic B field).

For a long time, the open question has been "Why does the magnetic charge always seem to be zero?"

In cgs units

The extended Maxwell's equations are as follows, in cgs units:[17]

Maxwell's equations in cgs
Name Without magnetic monopoles With magnetic monopoles
Gauss's law: \nabla \cdot \mathbf{E} = 4 \pi \rho_e \nabla \cdot \mathbf{E} = 4 \pi \rho_e
Gauss's law for magnetism: \nabla \cdot \mathbf{B} = 0 \nabla \cdot \mathbf{B} = 4 \pi \rho_m
Faraday's law of induction: -\nabla \times \mathbf{E} = \frac{1}{c}\frac{\partial \mathbf{B}} {\partial t} -\nabla \times \mathbf{E} = \frac{1}{c}\frac{\partial \mathbf{B}} {\partial t} +  \frac{4 \pi}{c}\mathbf{j}_m
Ampère's law
(with Maxwell's extension):
   \nabla \times \mathbf{B} = \frac{1}{c}\frac{\partial \mathbf{E}} {\partial t} + \frac{4 \pi}{c} \mathbf{j}_e    \nabla \times \mathbf{B} = \frac{1}{c}\frac{\partial \mathbf{E}} {\partial t} + \frac{4 \pi}{c} \mathbf{j}_e
ρm and jm are defined above. For all other definitions and details, see Maxwell's equations article.
Note: For the equations in nondimensionalized form, remove the factors of c.

The equally-important Lorentz force equation becomes[17][18]

\mathbf{F}=q_e\left(\mathbf{E}+\frac{\mathbf{v}}{c}\times\mathbf{B}\right) + q_m\left(\mathbf{B}-\frac{\mathbf{v}}{c}\times\mathbf{E}\right).

In these equations ρm is the magnetic charge density, jm is the magnetic current density, and qm is the magnetic charge of a test particle, all defined analogously to the related quantities of electric charge and current; v is the particle's velocity and c is the speed of light.

In SI units

In SI units, there are two conflicting conventions in use for magnetic charge. In one, magnetic charge has units of webers, while in the other, magnetic charge has units of ampere-meters. Maxwell's equations then take the following forms:[19]

Maxwell's equations and Lorentz force equation with magnetic monopoles: SI units
Name Without magnetic monopoles Weber convention Ampere·meter convention
Gauss's Law \nabla \cdot \mathbf{E} = \rho_e/\epsilon_0 \nabla \cdot \mathbf{E} = \rho_e/\epsilon_0 \nabla \cdot \mathbf{E} = \rho_e/\epsilon_0
Gauss's Law for magnetism \nabla \cdot \mathbf{B} = 0 \nabla \cdot \mathbf{B} = \rho_m \nabla \cdot \mathbf{B} = \mu_0\rho_m
Faraday's Law of induction -\nabla \times \mathbf{E} = \frac{\partial \mathbf{B}} {\partial t} -\nabla \times \mathbf{E} = \frac{\partial \mathbf{B}} {\partial t} + \mathbf{j}_m -\nabla \times \mathbf{E} = \frac{\partial \mathbf{B}} {\partial t} + \mu_0\mathbf{j}_m
Ampère's Law \nabla \times \mathbf{B} = \mu_0 \epsilon_0 \frac{\partial \mathbf{E}} {\partial t} + \mu_0 \mathbf{j}_e \nabla \times \mathbf{B} = \mu_0 \epsilon_0 \frac{\partial \mathbf{E}} {\partial t} + \mu_0 \mathbf{j}_e \nabla \times \mathbf{B} = \mu_0 \epsilon_0 \frac{\partial \mathbf{E}} {\partial t} + \mu_0 \mathbf{j}_e
Lorentz force equation \mathbf{F}=q_e\left(\mathbf{E}+\mathbf{v}\times\mathbf{B}\right) \mathbf{F}=q_e\left(\mathbf{E}+\mathbf{v}\times\mathbf{B}\right) +
+ \frac{q_m}{\mu_0}\left(\mathbf{B}-\mathbf{v}\times(\mathbf{E}/c^2)\right)
\mathbf{F}=q_e\left(\mathbf{E}+\mathbf{v}\times\mathbf{B}\right) +
+ q_m\left(\mathbf{B}-\mathbf{v}\times(\mathbf{E}/c^2)\right)

In these equations ρm is the magnetic charge density, jm is the magnetic current density, and qm is the magnetic charge of a test particle, all defined analogously to the related quantities of electric charge and current.

Dirac's quantization

One of the defining advances in quantum theory was Paul Dirac's work on developing a relativistic quantum electromagnetism. Before his formulation, the presence of electric charge was simply "inserted" into the equations of quantum mechanics (QM), but in 1931 Dirac showed that a discrete charge naturally "falls out" of QM. That is to say, we can maintain the form of Maxwell's equations and still have magnetic charges.

Consider a system consisting of a single stationary electric monopole (an electron, say) and a single stationary magnetic monopole. Classically, the electromagnetic field surrounding them has a momentum density given by the Poynting vector, and it also has a total angular momentum, which is proportional to the product qeqm, and independent of the distance between them.

Quantum mechanics dictates, however, that angular momentum is quantized in units of ħ, so therefore. the product qeqm must also be quantized. This means that if even a single magnetic monopole existed in the universe, and the form of Maxwell's equations is valid, all electric charges would then be quantized.

What are the units in which magnetic charge would be quantized? Although it would be possible simply to integrate over all space to find the total angular momentum in the above example, Dirac took a different approach. This led him to new ideas. He considered a point-like magnetic charge whose magnetic field behaves as qm / r 2 and is directed in the radial direction. Because the divergence of B is equal to zero almost everywhere, except for the locus of the magnetic monopole at r = 0, one can locally define the vector potential such that the curl of the vector potential A equals the magnetic field B.

However, the vector potential cannot be defined globally precisely because the divergence of the magnetic field is proportional to the Dirac delta function at the origin. We must define one set of functions for the vector potential on the northern hemisphere, and another set of functions for the southern hemispheres. These two vector potentials are matched at the equator, and they differ by a gauge transformation. The wave function of an electrically-charged particle (a "probe charge") that orbits the equator generally changes by a phase, much like in the Aharonov–Bohm effect. This phase is proportional to the electric charge qe of the probe, as well as to the magnetic charge qm of the source. Dirac was originally considering an electron whose wave function is described by the Dirac equation.

Because the electron returns to the same point after the full trip around the equator, the phase exp(iφ) of its wave function must be unchanged, which implies that the phase φ added to the wave function must be a multiple of 2π:

2 \frac{q_e q_m}{\hbar c} \in \mathbb{Z} (cgs units)
\frac{q_e q_m}{2 \pi \hbar} \in \mathbb{Z} (SI units, weber convention)[20]
\frac{q_e q_m}{2 \pi \epsilon_0 \hbar c^2} \in \mathbb{Z} (SI units, ampere·meter convention)


This is known as the Dirac quantization condition. The hypothetical existence of a magnetic monopole would imply that the electric charge must be quantized in certain units; also, the existence of the electric charges implies that the magnetic charges of the hypothetical magnetic monopoles, if they exist, must be quantized in units inversely proportional to the elementary electric charge.

At the time it was not clear if such a thing existed, or even had to. After all, another theory could come along that would explain charge quantization without need for the monopole. The concept remained something of a curiosity. However, in the time since the publication of this seminal work, no other widely accepted explanation of charge quantization has appeared. (The concept of local gauge invariance—see gauge theory below—provides a natural explanation of charge quantization, without invoking the need for magnetic monopoles; but only if the U(1) gauge group is compact, in which case we will have magnetic monopoles anyway.)

If we maximally extend the definition of the vector potential for the southern hemisphere, it will be defined everywhere except for a semi-infinite line stretched from the origin in the direction towards the northern pole. This semi-infinite line is called the Dirac string and its effect on the wave function is analogous to the effect of the solenoid in the Aharonov–Bohm effect. The quantization condition comes from the requirement that the phases around the Dirac string are trivial, which means that the Dirac string must be unphysical. The Dirac string is merely an artifact of the coordinate chart used and should not be taken seriously.

The Dirac monopole is a singular solution of Maxwell's equation (because it requires removing the worldline from spacetime); in more complicated theories, it is superseded by a smooth solution such as the 't Hooft–Polyakov monopole.

Topological interpretation

Dirac string

A gauge theory like electromagnetism is defined by a gauge field, which associates a group element to each path in space time. For infinitesimal paths, the group element is close to the identity, while for longer paths the group element is the successive product of the infinitesimal group elements along the way.

In electrodynamics, the group is U(1), unit complex numbers under multiplication. For infinitesimal paths, the group element is 1+iAμdxμ which implies that for finite paths parametrized by s, the group element is:

\prod_s \left( 1+ieA_\mu {dx^\mu \over ds} ds \right) = \exp \left( ie\int A\cdot dx \right) .

The map from paths to group elements is called the Wilson loop or the holonomy, and for a U(1) gauge group it is the phase factor which the wavefunction of a charged particle acquires as it traverses the path. For a loop:

e \oint_{\partial D} A\cdot dx  = e \int_D (\nabla \times A) dS = e \int_D B dS.

So that the phase a charged particle gets when going in a loop is the magnetic flux through the loop. When a small solenoid has a magnetic flux, there are interference fringes for charged particles which go around the solenoid, or around different sides of the solenoid, which reveal its presence.

But if all particle charges are integer multiples of e, solenoids with a flux of 2π/e have no interference fringes, because the phase factor for any charged particle is ei = 1. Such a solenoid, if thin enough, is quantum-mechanically invisible. If such a solenoid were to carry a flux of 2π/e, when the flux leaked out from one of its ends it would be indistinguishable from a monopole.

Dirac's monopole solution in fact describes an infinitesimal line solenoid ending at a point, and the location of the solenoid is the singular part of the solution, the Dirac string. Dirac strings link monopoles and antimonopoles of opposite magnetic charge, although in Dirac's version, the string just goes off to infinity. The string is unobservable, so you can put it anywhere, and by using two coordinate patches, the field in each patch can be made nonsingular by sliding the string to where it cannot be seen.

Grand unified theories

In a U(1) gauge group with quantized charge, the group is a circle of radius 2π/e. Such a U(1) gauge group is called compact. Any U(1) which comes from a Grand Unified Theory is compact - because only compact higher gauge groups make sense. The size of the gauge group is a measure of the inverse coupling constant, so that in the limit of a large-volume gauge group, the interaction of any fixed representation goes to zero.

The case of the U(1) gauge group is a special case because all its irreducible representations are of the same size — the charge is bigger by an integer amount, but the field is still just a complex number — so that in U(1) gauge field theory it is possible to take the decompactified limit with no contradiction. The quantum of charge becomes small, but each charged particle has a huge number of charge quanta so its charge stays finite. In a non-compact U(1) gauge group theory, the charges of particles are generically not integer multiples of a single unit. Since charge quantization is an experimental certainty, it is clear that the U(1) gauge group of electromagnetism is compact.

GUTs lead to compact U(1) gauge groups, so they explain charge quantization in a way that seems to be logically independent from magnetic monopoles. However, the explanation is essentially the same, because in any GUT which breaks down into a U(1) gauge group at long distances, there are magnetic monopoles.

The argument is topological:

  1. The holonomy of a gauge field maps loops to elements of the gauge group. Infinitesimal loops are mapped to group elements infinitesimally close to the identity.
  2. If you imagine a big sphere in space, you can deform an infinitesimal loop which starts and ends at the north pole as follows: stretch out the loop over the western hemisphere until it becomes a great circle (which still starts and ends at the north pole) then let it shrink back to a little loop while going over the eastern hemisphere. This is called lassoing the sphere.
  3. Lassoing is a sequence of loops, so the holonomy maps it to a sequence of group elements, a continuous path in the gauge group. Since the loop at the beginning of the lassoing is the same as the loop at the end, the path in the group is closed.
  4. If the group path associated to the lassoing procedure winds around the U(1), the sphere contains magnetic charge. During the lassoing, the holonomy changes by the amount of magnetic flux through the sphere.
  5. Since the holonomy at the beginning and at the end is the identity, the total magnetic flux is quantized. The magnetic charge is proportional to the number of windings N, the magnetic flux through the sphere is equal to 2πN/e. This is the Dirac quantization condition, and it is a topological condition which demands that the long distance U(1) gauge field configurations be consistent.
  6. When the U(1) gauge group comes from breaking a compact Lie group, the path which winds around the U(1) group enough times is topologically trivial in the big group. In a non-U(1) compact Lie group, the covering space is a Lie group with the same Lie algebra, but where all closed loops are contractible. Lie groups are homogenous, so that any cycle in the group can be moved around so that it starts at the identity, then its lift to the covering group ends at P, which is a lift of the identity. Going around the loop twice gets you to P2, three times to P3, all lifts of the identity. But there are only finitely many lifts of the identity, because the lifts can't accumulate. This number of times one has to traverse the loop to make it contractible is small, for example if the GUT group is SO(3), the covering group is SU(2), and going around any loop twice is enough.
  7. This means that there is a continuous gauge-field configuration in the GUT group allows the U(1) monopole configuration to unwind itself at short distances, at the cost of not staying in the U(1). In order to do this with as little energy as possible, you should leave only the U(1) gauge group in the neighborhood of one point, which is called the core of the monopole. Outside the core, the monopole has only magnetic field energy.

Hence, the Dirac monopole is a topological defect in a compact U(1) gauge theory. When there is no GUT, the defect is a singularity — the core shrinks to a point. But when there is some sort of short-distance regulator on space time, the monopoles have a finite mass. Monopoles occur in lattice U(1), and there the core size is the lattice size. In general, they are expected to occur whenever there is a short-distance regulator.

String theory

In our universe, quantum gravity provides the regulator. When gravity is included, the monopole singularity can be a black hole, and for large magnetic charge and mass, the black hole mass is equal to the black hole charge, so that the mass of the magnetic black hole is not infinite. If the black hole can decay completely by Hawking radiation, the lightest charged particles cannot be too heavy. The lightest monopole should have a mass less than or comparable to its charge in natural units.

So in a consistent holographic theory, of which string theory is the only known example, there are always finite-mass monopoles. For ordinary electromagnetism, the mass bound is not very useful because it is about same size as the Planck mass.

Mathematical formulation

In mathematics, a gauge field is defined as a connection over a principal G-bundle over spacetime. G is the gauge group, and it acts on each fiber of the bundle separately.

A connection on a G bundle tells you how to glue F's together at nearby points of M. It starts with a continuous symmetry group G which acts on F, and then it associates a group element with each infinitesimal path. Group multiplication along any path tells you how to move from one point on the bundle to another, by acting the G element of a path on the fiber F.

In mathematics, the definition of bundle is designed to emphasize topology, so the notion of connection is added on as an afterthought. In physics, the connection is the fundamental physical object. One of the fundamental observations in the theory of characteristic classes in algebraic topology is that many homotopical structures of nontrivial principal bundles may be expressed as an integral of some polynomial over any connection over it. Note that any connection over a trivial bundle can never give us a nontrivial principal bundle.

If space time has no topology, if it is R4 the space of all possible connections of the G-bundle is connected. But consider what happens when we remove a timelike worldline from spacetime. The resulting spacetime is homotopically equivalent to the topological sphere S2.

A principal G-bundle over S2 is defined by covering S2 by two charts, each homeomorphic to the open 2-ball such that their intersection is homeomorphic to the strip S1×I. 2-balls are homotopically trivial and the strip is homotopically equivalent to the circle S1. So a topological classification of the possible connections is reduced to classifying the transition functions. The transition function maps the strip to G, and the different ways of mapping a strip into G are given by the first homotopy group of G.

So in the G-bundle formulation, a gauge theory admits Dirac monopoles provided G is not simply connected, whenever there are paths that go around the group that cannot be deformed to nothing. U(1), which has quantized charges, is not simply connected and can have Dirac monopoles while R, its universal covering group, is simply connected, doesn't have quantized charges and does not admit Dirac monopoles. The mathematical definition is equivalent to the physics definition provided that, following Dirac, gauge fields are allowed which are defined only patch-wise and the gauge field on different patches are glued after a gauge transformation.

The total magnetic flux is none other than the first Chern number of the principal bundle, and depends only upon the choice of the principal bundle, and not the specific connection over it. In other words, it's a topological invariant.

This argument for monopoles is a restatement of the lasso argument for a pure U(1) theory. It generalizes to d + 1 dimensions with d ≥ 2 in several ways. One way is to extend everything into the extra dimensions, so that U(1) monopoles become sheets of dimension d-3. Another way is to examine the type of topological singularity at a point with the homotopy group πd−2(G).

Grand unified theories

In more recent years, a new class of theories has also suggested the existence of magnetic monopoles.

During the early 1970s, the successes of quantum field theory and gauge theory in the development of electroweak theory and the mathematics of the strong nuclear force led many theorists to move on to attempt to combine them in a single theory known as a Grand Unified Theory (GUT). Several GUTs were proposed, most of which had the curious[says who?] feature of implying the presence of a real magnetic monopole particle. More accurately, GUTs predicted a range of particles known as dyons, of which the most basic state was a monopole. The charge on magnetic monopoles predicted by GUTs is either 1 or 2 gD, depending on the theory.

The majority of particles appearing in any quantum field theory are unstable, and they decay into other particles in a variety of reactions that must satisfy various conservation laws. Stable particles are stable because there are no lighter particles into which they can decay and still satisfy the conservation laws. For instance, the electron has a lepton number of one and an electric charge of one, and there are no lighter particles that conserve these values. On the other hand, the muon, essentially a heavy electron, can decay into the electron plus two quanta of energy, and hence it is not stable.

The dyons in these GUTs are also stable, but for an entirely different reason. The dyons are expected to exist as a side effect of the "freezing out" of the conditions of the early universe, or a symmetry breaking. In this scenario, the dyons arise due to the configuration of the vacuum in a particular area of the universe, according to the original Dirac theory. They remain stable not because of a conservation condition, but because there is no simpler topological state into which they can decay.

The length scale over which this special vacuum configuration exists is called the correlation length of the system. A correlation length cannot be larger than causality would allow, therefore the correlation length for making magnetic monopoles must be at least as big as the horizon size determined by the metric of the expanding universe. According to that logic, there should be at least one magnetic monopole per horizon volume as it was when the symmetry breaking took place. Other arguments based on the critical density of the universe indicate that monopoles should be fairly common; the apparent problem of the observed scarcity of monopoles is resolved by cosmic inflation in the early universe, which greatly reduces the expected abundance of magnetic monopoles. For these reasons, monopoles became a major interest in the 1970s and 80s, along with the other "approachable" predictions of GUTs such as proton decay.

Many of the other particles predicted by these GUTs were beyond the abilities of current experiments to detect. For instance, a wide class of particles known as the X and Y bosons are predicted to mediate the coupling of the electroweak and strong forces, but these particles are extremely heavy and well beyond the capabilities of any reasonable particle accelerator to create.

Searches for magnetic monopoles

A number of attempts have been made to detect magnetic monopoles. One of the simpler ones is to use a loop of superconducting wire to look for even tiny magnetic sources, a so-called "superconducting quantum interference device", or SQUID. Given the predicted density, loops small enough to fit on a lab bench would expect to see about one monopole event per year. Although there have been tantalizing events recorded, in particular the event recorded by Blas Cabrera on the night of February 14, 1982 (thus, sometimes referred to as the "Valentine's Day Monopole"[21]), there has never been reproducible evidence for the existence of magnetic monopoles.[11] The lack of such events places a limit on the number of monopoles of about one monopole per 1029 nucleons.

Another experiment in 1975 resulted in the announcement of the detection of a moving magnetic monopole in cosmic rays by the team led by P. Buford Price.[10] Price later retracted his claim, and a possible alternative explanation was offered by Alvarez.[22] In his paper it was demonstrated that the path of the cosmic ray event that was claimed to have been be due to a magnetic monopole could be reproduced by the path followed by a platinum nucleus decaying first to osmium, and then to tantalum.

Other experiments rely on the strong coupling of monopoles with photons, as is the case for any electrically-charged particle as well. In experiments involving photon exchange in particle accelerators, monopoles should be produced in reasonable numbers, and detected due to their effect on the scattering of the photons. The probability of a particle being created in such experiments is related to their mass — with heavier particles being less likely to be created — so by examining the results of such experiments, limits on the mass of a magnetic monopole can be calculated. The most recent such experiments suggest that monopoles with masses below 600 GeV/c2 do not exist, while upper limits on their mass due to the very existence of the universe - which would have collapsed by now if they were too heavy - are about 1017 GeV/c2.

The MoEDAL experiment, installed at the Large Hadron Collider, is currently searching for magnetic monopoles and large supersymmetric particles using layers of special plastic sheets attached to the walls around LHCb's VELO detector. The particles it is looking for will damage the sheets along their path, with various identifying features.

"Monopoles" in condensed-matter systems

While a magnetic monopole particle has never been conclusively observed, there are a number of phenomena in condensed-matter physics where a material, due to the collective behavior of its electrons and ions, can show emergent phenomena that resemble magnetic monopoles in some respect.[23][24][25][26][27] These should not be confused with actual monopole particles: since all known particles have zero magnetic charge (including the protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up the whole periodic table), it is fundamentally impossible to find a true magnetic monopole in ordinary matter made from atoms; only quasiparticles are possible. In particular, the law ∇⋅B=0 is true everywhere in these systems, which it would not be in the presence of a true magnetic monopole particle. The Dirac string model describes such a system in the theoretical limit of infinitely thin connecting fluxtubes.

One example of the work on magnetic monopole quasiparticles is a paper published in the journal Science in September 2009, in which researchers Jonathan Morris and Alan Tennant from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) along with Santiago Grigera from Instituto de Física de Líquidos y Sistemas Biológicos (IFLYSIB, CONICET) and other colleagues from Dresden University of Technology, University of St. Andrews and Oxford University described the observation of quasiparticles resembling magnetic monopoles. A single crystal of dysprosium titanate in a highly frustrated pyrochlore lattice (F d -3 m) was cooled to a temperature between 0.6 kelvin and 2.0 kelvin. Using observations of neutron scattering, the magnetic moments were shown to align in the spin ice into interwoven tubelike bundles resembling Dirac strings. At the defect formed by the end of each tube, the magnetic field looks like that of a monopole. Using an applied magnetic field to break the symmetry of the system, the researchers were able to control the density and orientation of these strings. A contribution to the heat capacity of the system from an effective gas of these quasiparticles was also described.[28][29]

Another example of the work on magnetic monopole quasiparticles is a paper in the February 11, 2011 issue of Nature Physics which describes creation and measurement of long-lived magnetic monopole quasiparticle currents in spin ice. By applying a magnetic-field pulse to a dysprosium titanate (Dy2Ti2O7) spin-ice crystal at 0.36 K, the authors created a relaxing magnetic current that lasted for several minutes. They measured the current by means of the electromotive force it induced in a solenoid coupled to a sensitive amplifier, and quantitatively described it using a chemical kinetic model of point-like charges obeying the Onsager–Wien mechanism of carrier dissociation and recombination. They thus derived the microscopic parameters of monopole motion in spin ice and identified the distinct roles of free and bound magnetic charges.[30]

See also


  1. ^ Dark Cosmos: In Search of Our Universe's Missing Mass and Energy, by Dan Hooper, p192
  2. ^ Particle Data Group summary of magnetic monopole search
  3. ^ Wen, Xiao-Gang; Witten, Edward, Electric and magnetic charges in superstring models,Nuclear Physics B, Volume 261, p. 651-677
  4. ^ S. Coleman, The Magnetic Monopole 50 years Later, reprinted in Aspects of Symmetry
  5. ^ The encyclopædia britannica, Volume 17, p352
  6. ^ Principles of Physics by William Francis Magie, p424
  7. ^ Pierre Curie, Sur la possibilité d'existence de la conductibilité magnétique et du magnétisme libre (On the possible existence of magnetic conductivity and free magnetism), Séances de la Société Française de Physique (Paris), p76 (1894). (French)Free access online copy.
  8. ^ Paul Dirac, "Quantised Singularities in the Electromagnetic Field". Proc. Roy. Soc. (London) A 133, 60 (1931). Free web link.
  9. ^ a b Lecture notes by Robert Littlejohn, University of California, Berkeley, 2007-8
  10. ^ a b P. B. Price; E. K. Shirk; W. Z. Osborne; L. S. Pinsky (25 August 1975). "Evidence for Detection of a Moving Magnetic Monopole". Physical Review Letters (American Physical Society) 35 (8): 487–490. Bibcode 1975PhRvL..35..487P. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.35.487. 
  11. ^ a b Blas Cabrera (17 May 1982). "First Results from a Superconductive Detector for Moving Magnetic Monopoles". Physical Review Letters (American Physical Society) 48 (20): 1378–1381. Bibcode 1982PhRvL..48.1378C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.48.1378. 
  12. ^ Milton p.60
  13. ^ a b Polchinski, arXiv 2003
  14. ^ Magnetic monopoles spotted in spin ices, 3 September 2009. "Oleg Tchernyshyov at Johns Hopkins University [a researcher in this field] cautions that the theory and experiments are specific to spin ices, and are not likely to shed light on magnetic monopoles as predicted by Dirac."
  15. ^ The fact that the electric and magnetic fields can be written in a symmetric way is specific to the fact that space is three-dimensional. When the equations of electromagnetism are extrapolated to other dimensions, the magnetic field is described as being a rank-two antisymmetric tensor, whereas the electric field remains a true vector. In dimensions other than three, these two mathematical objects do not have the same number of components.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b F. Moulin (2001). "Magnetic monopoles and Lorentz force". Nuovo Cimento B 116 (8): 869–877. arXiv:math-ph/0203043. Bibcode 2001NCimB.116..869M. 
  18. ^ Wolfgang Rindler (November 1989). "Relativity and electromagnetism: The force on a magnetic monopole". American Journal of Physics (American Journal of Physics) 57 (11): 993–994. Bibcode 1989AmJPh..57..993R. doi:10.1119/1.15782. 
  19. ^ For the convention where magnetic charge has units of webers, see Jackson 1999. In particular, for Maxwell's equations, see section 6.11, equation (6.150), page 273, and for the Lorentz force law, see page 290, exercise 6.17(a). For the convention where magnetic charge has units of ampere-meters, see (for example) arXiv:physics/0508099v1, eqn (4).
  20. ^ Jackson 1999, section 6.11, equation (6.153), page 275
  21. ^
  22. ^ Alvarez, Luis W. "Analysis of a Reported Magnetic Monopole". In ed. Kirk, W. T.. Proceedings of the 1975 international symposium on lepton and photon interactions at high energies. International symposium on lepton and photon interactions at high energies, 21 Aug 1975. pp. 967. 
  23. ^ Zhong, Fang; Naoto Nagosa, Mei S. Takahashi, Atsushi Asamitsu, Roland Mathieu, Takeshi Ogasawara, Hiroyuki Yamada, Masashi Kawasaki, Yoshinori Tokura, Kiyoyuki Terakura (October 3, 2003). "The Anomalous Hall Effect and Magnetic Monopoles in Momentum Space". Science 302 (5642): 92-95. doi:10.1126/science.1089408. ISSN 1095-9203. Retrieved on 2 August 2007.
  24. ^ Making magnetic monopoles, and other exotica, in the lab, Symmetry Breaking, 29 January 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  25. ^ Inducing a Magnetic Monopole with Topological Surface States, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Express magazine, Xiao-Liang Qi, Rundong Li, Jiadong Zang, Shou-Cheng Zhang, 29 January 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  26. ^ Magnetic monopoles in spin ice, C. Castelnovo, R. Moessner and S. L. Sondhi, Nature 451, 42-45 (3 January 2008)
  27. ^ Nature 461, 956-959 (15 October 2009); doi:10.1038/nature08500, Steven Bramwell et al
  28. ^ "Magnetic Monopoles Detected In A Real Magnet For The First Time". Science Daily. 4 September 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  29. ^ D.J.P. Morris, D.A. Tennant, S.A. Grigera, B. Klemke, C. Castelnovo, R. Moessner, C. Czter-nasty, M. Meissner, K.C. Rule, J.-U. Hoffmann, K. Kiefer, S. Gerischer, D. Slobinsky, and R.S. Perry (3 September 2009). Dirac Strings and Magnetic Monopoles in Spin Ice Dy2Ti2O7. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178868. Bibcode 2009Sci...326..411M. doi:10.1126/science.1178868. PMID 19729617. 
  30. ^ S. R. Giblin, S. T. Bramwell, P. C. W. Holdsworth, D. Prabhakaran & I. Terry (13 February 2011). Creation and measurement of long-lived magnetic monopole currents in spin ice. Nature Physics. Bibcode 2011NatPh...7..252G. doi:10.1038/nphys1896. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 


  • Brau, Charles A. (2004). Modern Problems in Classical Electrodynamics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514665-4. 
  • Jackson, John David (1999). Classical Electrodynamics (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley. ISBN 0-471-30932-X. 
  • Milton, Kimball A. (June 2006). "Theoretical and experimental status of magnetic monopoles". Reports on Progress in Physics 69 (6): 1637–1711. arXiv:hep-ex/0602040. Bibcode 2006RPPh...69.1637M. doi:10.1088/0034-4885/69/6/R02. 
  • Shnir, Yakov M. (2005). Magnetic Monopoles. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-25277-0. 

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