Quantum quench of Kondo correlations in optical absorption


The interaction between a single confined spin and the spins of an electron reservoir leads to one of the most remarkable phenomena of many-body physics—the Kondo effect1,2. Electronic transport measurements on single artificial atoms, or quantum dots, have made it possible to study the effect in great detail3,4,5. Here we report optical measurements on a single semiconductor quantum dot tunnel-coupled to a degenerate electron gas which show that absorption of a single photon leads to an abrupt change in the system Hamiltonian and a quantum quench of Kondo correlations. By inferring the characteristic power-law exponents from the experimental absorption line shapes, we find a unique signature of the quench in the form of an Anderson orthogonality catastrophe6,7, induced by a vanishing overlap between the initial and final many-body wavefunctions. We show that the power-law exponent that determines the degree of orthogonality can be tuned using an external magnetic field8, which unequivocally demonstrates that the observed absorption line shape originates from Kondo correlations. Our experiments demonstrate that optical measurements on single artificial atoms offer new perspectives on many-body phenomena previously studied using transport spectroscopy only.

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Figure 1: Single quantum dot strongly coupled to a fermionic reservoir.
Figure 2: Gate voltage dependence of the peak absorption strength.
Figure 3: The absorption line shape A(ν).
Figure 4: Magnetic field dependence of the absorption.


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This work was supported by Swiss NSF under grant no. 200021-121757 and an ERC Advanced Investigator Grant (A.I.). J.v.D. acknowledges support from the DFG (SFB631, SFB-TR12, De730/3-2, De730/4-1), the Cluster of Excellence ‘Nanosystems Initiative Munich’. H.E.T. acknowledges support from the Swiss NSF under grant no. PP00P2-123519/1. L.G. acknowledges support from NSF DMR under grant no. 0906498.

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C.L., F.H., W.W. and P.F. carried out the experiments. M.H. and A.W. performed the numerical analysis. The samples were grown by S.F. C.L. and A.I. planned the experiment. H.E.T., M.C., L.G., A.I. and J.v.D. developed the theoretical framework. C.L., J.v.D. and A.I. supervised the project, carried out the analysis of the data and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to C. Latta or A. Imamoglu.

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Latta, C., Haupt, F., Hanl, M. et al. Quantum quench of Kondo correlations in optical absorption. Nature 474, 627–630 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10204

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