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Nat Nanotechnol. 2014 Feb;9(2):101-5. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2013.297. Epub 2014 Jan 19.

Formation of a protected sub-band for conduction in quantum point contacts under extreme biasing.

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  • 1Department of Electrical Engineering, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, 230 Davis Hall, Buffalo, New York 14260-1900, USA.
  • 2Department of Physics, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, 239 Fronczak Hall, Buffalo, New York 14260-1500, USA.
  • 3CINT, Sandia National Laboratories, Department 1131, MS 1303, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185, USA.


Managing energy dissipation is critical to the scaling of current microelectronics and to the development of novel devices that use quantum coherence to achieve enhanced functionality. To this end, strategies are needed to tailor the electron-phonon interaction, which is the dominant mechanism for cooling non-equilibrium ('hot') carriers. In experiments aimed at controlling the quantum state, this interaction causes decoherence that fundamentally disrupts device operation. Here, we show a contrasting behaviour, in which strong electron-phonon scattering can instead be used to generate a robust mode for electrical conduction in GaAs quantum point contacts, driven into extreme non-equilibrium by nanosecond voltage pulses. When the amplitude of these pulses is much larger than all other relevant energy scales, strong electron-phonon scattering induces an attraction between electrons in the quantum-point-contact channel, which leads to the spontaneous formation of a narrow current filament and to a renormalization of the electronic states responsible for transport. The lowest of these states coalesce to form a sub-band separated from all others by an energy gap larger than the source voltage. Evidence for this renormalization is provided by a suppression of heating-related signatures in the transient conductance, which becomes pinned near 2e(2)/h (e, electron charge; h, Planck constant) for a broad range of source and gate voltages. This collective non-equilibrium mode is observed over a wide range of temperature (4.2-300 K) and may provide an effective means to manage electron-phonon scattering in nanoscale devices.

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