I’m not sure how much the mystery of Ettore Majorana’s disappearance in 1938 has to do with the latest research from Brazil on Majorana particles but it’s definitely fascinating, From an April 6, 2018 news item on ScienceDaily.
In March 1938, the young Italian physicist Ettore Majorana disappeared mysteriously, leaving his country’s scientific community shaken. The episode remains unexplained, despite Leonardo Scascia’s attempt to unravel the enigma in his book The Disappearance of Majorana (1975).
Majorana, whom Enrico Fermi called a genius of Isaac Newton’s stature, vanished a year after making his main contribution to science. In 1937, when he was only 30, Majorana hypothesized a particle that is its own anti-particle and suggested that it might be the neutrino, whose existence had recently been predicted by Fermi and Wolfgang Pauli.
Eight decades later, Majorana fermions, or simply majoranas, are among the objects most studied by physicists. In addition to neutrinos — whose nature, whether or not they are majoranas, is one of the investigative goals of the mega-experiment Dune — another class not of fundamental particles but of quasi-particles or apparent particles has been investigated in the field of condensed matter. These Majorana quasi-particles can emerge as excitations in topological superconductors.
An April 6, 2018 Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) press release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, reveals more about the Brazilian research (Note: Links have been removed),
A new study by PhD student Luciano Henrique Siliano Ricco with a scholarship from the São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP, in collaboration with his supervisor Antonio Carlos Ferreira Seridonio and others, was conducted on the Ilha Solteira campus of São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil and described in an article in Scientific Reports.
“We propose a theoretical device that acts as a thermoelectric tuner – a tuner of heat and charge – assisted by Majorana fermions,” Seridonio said.
The device consists of a quantum dot (QD), represented in the Figure A by the symbol e1. QDs are often called “artificial atoms.” In this case, the QD is located between two metallic leads at different temperatures.
The temperature difference is fundamental to allowing thermal energy to flow across the QD. A quasi-one-dimensional superconducting wire – called a Kitaev wire after its proponent, Russian physicist Alexei Kitaev, currently a professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the US – is connected to the QD.
In this study, the Kitaev wire was ring- or U-shaped and had two majoranas (?1 and ?2) at its edges. The majoranas emerge as excitations characterized by zero-energy modes.
“When the QD is coupled to only one side of the wire, the system behaves resonantly with regard to electrical and thermal conductance. In other words, it behaves like a thermoelectric filter,” said the principal investigator for the FAPESP fellowship.
“I should stress that this behavior as a filter for thermal and electrical energy occurs when the two majoranas ‘see’ each other via the wire, but only one of them ‘sees’ the QD in the connection.”
Another possibility investigated by the researchers involved making the QD “see” the two majoranas at the same time by connecting it to both ends of the Kitaev wire.
“By making the QD ‘see’ more of ?1 or ?2, i.e., by varying the system’s asymmetry, we can use the artificial atom as a tuner, where the thermal or electrical energy that flows through it is redshifted or blueshifted,” Seridonio said (see Figure B for illustrative explanation).
This theoretical paper, he added, is expected to contribute to the development of thermoelectric devices based on Majorana fermions.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Tuning of heat and charge transport by Majorana fermions by L. S. Ricco, F. A. Dessotti, I. A. Shelykh, M. S. Figueira & A. C. Seridonio. Scientific Reportsvolume 8, Article number: 2790 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41598-018-21180-9 Published online: 12 February 2018
This paper is open access.
As I prepared to publish this piece I stumbled across a sad Sept. 3, 2018 article about Brazil and its overnight loss of heritage in a fire by Henry Grabar for slate.com (Note: Links have been removed),
On Sunday night, a fire ripped through Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, destroying the country’s most valuable storehouse of natural and anthropological history within hours.
Most of the 20 million items housed inside—including the skull of Luzia, the oldest human remains ever found in the Americas; one of the world’s largest archives of South America’s indigenous cultures; more than 26,000 fossils, 55,000 stuffed birds, and 5 million insect specimens; and a library of more than 500,000 books—are thought to have been destroyed.