The single-electron transistor is the fastest and most sensitive electrometer available today1,2. Single-electron pumps and turnstiles are also being explored as part of the global effort to redefine the ampere in terms of the fundamental physical constants3,4,5,6. However, the possibility of electrons tunnelling coherently through these devices, a phenomenon known as co-tunnelling7, imposes a fundamental limit on device performance. It has been predicted8 that it should be possible to completely suppress co-tunnelling in mechanical versions of the single-electron transistor9, which would allow mechanical devices to outperform conventional single-electron transistors in many applications. However, the mechanical devices developed so far are fundamentally limited by unwanted interactions with the electrical mechanisms that are used to excite the devices10,11,12. Here we show that it is possible to overcome this problem by using ultrasonic waves rather than electrical currents as the excitation mechanism, which we demonstrate at low temperatures. This is a significant step towards the development of high-performance devices.
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We gratefully acknowledge financial support of the German Excellence Initiative via the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) and by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ko 416/18-1). We thank K. Karrai for helpful discussion and S. Manus for expert technical help. D.R.K. thankfully acknowledges support by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.
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Koenig, D., Weig, E. & Kotthaus, J. Ultrasonically driven nanomechanical single-electron shuttle. Nature Nanotech 3, 482–485 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2008.178