Electrons surfing on a sound wave as a platform for quantum optics with flying electrons


Electrons in a metal are indistinguishable particles that interact strongly with other electrons and their environment. Isolating and detecting a single flying electron after propagation, in a similar manner to quantum optics experiments with single photons1,2, is therefore a challenging task. So far only a few experiments have been performed in a high-mobility two-dimensional electron gas in which the electron propagates almost ballistically3,4,5. In these previous works, flying electrons were detected by means of the current generated by an ensemble of electrons, and electron correlations were encrypted in the current noise. Here we demonstrate the experimental realization of high-efficiency single-electron source and detector for a single electron propagating isolated from the other electrons through a one-dimensional channel. The moving potential is excited by a surface acoustic wave, which carries the single electron along the one-dimensional channel at a speed of 3 μm ns−1. When this quantum channel is placed between two quantum dots several micrometres apart, a single electron can be transported from one quantum dot to the other with quantum efficiencies of emission and detection of 96% and 92%, respectively. Furthermore, the transfer of the electron can be triggered on a timescale shorter than the coherence time T2* of GaAs spin qubits6. Our work opens new avenues with which to study the teleportation of a single electron spin and the distant interaction between spatially separated qubits in a condensed-matter system.

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Figure 1: Experimental device and measurement setup.
Figure 2: Stability diagrams of the two quantum dots and charge detection.
Figure 3: Coincidence between emission and detection of a single electron.
Figure 4: Coincidence between emission and detection of two electrons and triggered nanosecond electron transfer.


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We thank Y. Launay and P. Perrier for technical support. We acknowledge technical support from the ‘Pôles Électroniques’ of the ‘Départment Nano et MCBT’ from the Institut Néel. M.Y. acknowledges financial support by Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists A (no. 20684011) and ERATO-JST (080300000477). S.T. acknowledges financial support from Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology (NanoQuine), Japan Science and Technology Agency Strategic International Cooperative Program, Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology KAKENHI ‘Quantum Cybernetics’, and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity project ‘Multi-Qubit Coherent Operations’ through Harvard University. A.D.W. acknowledges expert help from D. Reuter and support of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SPP1285) and the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (QuaHLRep 01BQ1035). C.B. acknowledges financial support from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (DREI) – Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (nos PRC 424 and L08519). T.M. acknowledges financial support from Marie-Curie European Reintegration Grant 224786. We are grateful to the Nanoscience Foundation of Grenoble for partial financial support of this work.

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S.H. and T.M. conceived and performed the experiments and analysed the data. Sh.T., M.Y. and S.T. were in charge of the sample fabrication and early stages of the experiment. A.D.W. performed the molecular beam epitaxy growth of the high-mobility GaAs/AlGaAs heterostructure. C.B and T.M. wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the manuscript and discussed the results extensively.

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Correspondence to Christopher Bäuerle or Tristan Meunier.

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Hermelin, S., Takada, S., Yamamoto, M. et al. Electrons surfing on a sound wave as a platform for quantum optics with flying electrons. Nature 477, 435–438 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10416

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