Researchers have created synthetic magnetic monopoles for the first time; the accomplishment could allow researchers to make a breakthrough comparable to the discovery of the electron.

"The creation of a synthetic magnetic monopole should provide us with unprecedented insight into aspects of the natural magnetic monopole-if indeed it exists," Amherst College Physics Professor David S. Hall, said in a news release.

Magnetic poles usually come in pairs, one north and one south; magnetic monopoles are "lone rangers."

Researchers have searched for monopoles in everything from moon rock to ancient minerals, but have never been able to find them in nature.

A research team worked to "create and identify" synthetic versions of these unusual poles in a artificial magnetic field created by a frigid atomic gas. The team relies on work published by Aalto's Möttönen and student Ville Pietilä that suggested "external magnetic fields could lead to the creation of the synthetic monopole," the news release reported.

The team was able to use photographs to confirm the monopoles' existence at the end of small quantum whirlpools within the cold gas. This proves the magnets can exist in nature.

"It's not every day that you get to poke and prod the analog of an elusive fundamental particle under highly controlled conditions in the lab," Hall said.

Findings such as these could help us understand new materials, such as "higher-temperature superconductors for the lossless transmission of electricity," the news release reported.

"Our achievement opens up amazing avenues for quantum research. In the future, we want to get even a more complete correspondence with the natural magnetic monopole," Möttönen said in the news release.

Findings such as this do not come every day.

"This is an incredible discovery. To be able to confirm the work of one of the most famous physicists is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am proud and honored to have been part of this great collaborative effort," Amherst postdoctoral research associate Michael Ray, said in the news release.