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An electronic Mach–Zehnder interferometer


Double-slit electron interferometers fabricated in high mobility two-dimensional electron gases are powerful tools for studying coherent wave-like phenomena in mesoscopic systems1,2,3,4,5,6. However, they suffer from low visibility of the interference patterns due to the many channels present in each slit, and from poor sensitivity to small currents due to their open geometry3,4,5,7. Moreover, these interferometers do not function in high magnetic fields—such as those required to enter the quantum Hall effect regime8—as the field destroys the symmetry between left and right slits. Here we report the fabrication and operation of a single-channel, two-path electron interferometer that functions in a high magnetic field. This device is the first electronic analogue of the optical Mach–Zehnder interferometer9, and opens the way to measuring interference of quasiparticles with fractional charges. On the basis of measurements of single edge state and closed geometry transport in the quantum Hall effect regime, we find that the interferometer is highly sensitive and exhibits very high visibility (62%). However, the interference pattern decays precipitously with increasing electron temperature or energy. Although the origin of this dephasing is unclear, we show, via shot-noise measurements, that it is not a decoherence process that results from inelastic scattering events.

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Figure 1: The configuration and operation of an optical Mach–Zehnder interferometer, and its realization with electrons.
Figure 2: Interference pattern of electrons in a Mach–Zehnder interferometer and the dependence on transmission.
Figure 3: The dependence of the visibility of the interference pattern on temperature and applied voltage.
Figure 4: Shot-noise measurement (at filling factor 2) as function of T2 when the transmission of QPC1 was set to T1 = 0.5. A 30-µV d.c. voltage (under which the AB interference pattern was quenched) was used to measure shot noise.

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We thank Y. Levinson for clarifying the issue of phase averaging, and C. Kane for comments on the manuscript. The work was partly supported by the MINERVA Foundation, the Israeli Academy of Science, the German Israeli Project Cooperation (DIP), the German Israeli Foundation (GIF), and the EU QUACS network.

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Correspondence to M. Heiblum.

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Ji, Y., Chung, Y., Sprinzak, D. et al. An electronic Mach–Zehnder interferometer. Nature 422, 415–418 (2003).

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