The on-demand generation of pure quantum excitations is important for the operation of quantum systems, but it is particularly difficult for a system of fermions. This is because any perturbation affects all states below the Fermi energy, resulting in a complex superposition of particle and hole excitations. However, it was predicted nearly 20 years ago1,2,3 that a Lorentzian time-dependent potential with quantized flux generates a minimal excitation with only one particle and no hole. Here we report that such quasiparticles (hereafter termed levitons) can be generated on demand in a conductor by applying voltage pulses to a contact. Partitioning the excitations with an electronic beam splitter generates a current noise that we use to measure their number. Minimal-excitation states are observed for Lorentzian pulses, whereas for other pulse shapes there are significant contributions from holes. Further identification of levitons is provided in the energy domain with shot-noise spectroscopy, and in the time domain with electronic Hong–Ou–Mandel noise correlations4,5,6,7,8. The latter, obtained by colliding synchronized levitons on a beam splitter, exemplifies the potential use of levitons for quantum information: using linear electron quantum optics9 in ballistic conductors, it is possible to imagine flying-qubit10,11 operation in which the Fermi statistics are exploited12,13,14 to entangle synchronized electrons emitted by distinct sources15,16,17,18. Compared with electron sources based on quantum dots19,20,21, the generation of levitons does not require delicate nanolithography, considerably simplifying the circuitry for scalability. Levitons are not limited to carrying a single charge, and so in a broader context n-particle levitons could find application in the study of full electron counting statistics22,23,24,25. But they can also carry a fraction of charge if they are implemented in Luttinger liquids3 or in fractional quantum Hall edge channels26; this allows the study of Abelian and non-Abelian quasiparticles in the time domain. Finally, the generation technique could be applied to cold atomic gases27,28, leading to the possibility of atomic levitons.
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The ERC Advanced Grant 228273 MeQuaNo is acknowledged. We thank P. Jacques for technical help and P. Pari and P. Forget for support with cryogenics.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Dubois, J., Jullien, T., Portier, F. et al. Minimal-excitation states for electron quantum optics using levitons. Nature 502, 659–663 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12713
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