Researchers produce the first experimental pulse-generation of a single electron—a leviton

Oct 24, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Single-particle leviton: schematic picture of the wavefunction in the time and energy domains. Credit: Nature (2013) doi:10.1038/nature12713

( —A team of researchers in France has produced the first experimental pulse-generation of a single electron—they've named it a leviton, in honor of physicist Leonid Levitov and its resemblance to a soliton. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team describes how they caused the leviton to come about and how it might be used in future applications.

Seventeen years ago, Levitov and colleagues suggested that if a voltage was applied to a nanocircuit and varied over according to the mathematical expression of a Lorentzian distribution, it should be possible to excite a single electron peak in a sea of . In this new effort, the researchers in France have proved the theory to be true and in the process have opened the door to a whole new subfield of physics involving the use of quantum excitations.

The researchers achieved their goal by building a nanocircuit, which was essentially a nanoscale electrode, to create what is known as a Fermi sea—where electrons are held in a tiny device. They then cooled the circuit to near absolute zero and then applied voltage that varied in time to stir up the electrons—creating chaotic peaks and valleys. Adjusting the time variations to fit the Lorentzian distribution allowed for creating just one single peak—the long sought after leviton. The researchers compare their experiment to a tub of water, stirring causes chaotic waves to form, adding more water (electrons) causes the water level to rise, while letting some out similarly causes the level to fall. But, if the water is stirred in just the right way, as Scottish engineer John Scot Russell observed back in the late 1800's, a soliton can form—a tsunami type wave where the energy in it is not dispersed as it moves across the surface.

This is not the first time single-electron excitations have been caused to come about, but it is the first time it's been done without having to resort to building a special nanostructure. Because of that, the researchers say, it now appears possible to scale up such a circuit to allow for building larger systems that could conceivable carry quantum information.

Explore further: New terahertz device could strengthen security

More information: Minimal-excitation states for electron quantum optics using levitons, Nature (2013) DOI: 10.1038/nature12713

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 ago 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 correlations. The latter, obtained by colliding synchronized levitons on a beam splitter, exemplifies the potential use of levitons for quantum information: using linear electron quantum optics in ballistic conductors, it is possible to imagine flying-qubit operation in which the Fermi statistics are exploited to entangle synchronized electrons emitted by distinct sources. Compared with electron sources based on quantum dots, 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 statistics. But they can also carry a fraction of charge if they are implemented in Luttinger liquids3 or in fractional quantum Hall edge channels; this allows the study of Abelian and non-Abelian quasiparticles in the time domain. Finally, the generation technique could be applied to cold atomic gases, leading to the possibility of atomic levitons.

Related Stories

Light on twenty-year-old electron mystery

Aug 29, 2013

Groningen scientists have found an explanation for a mystery that has been puzzling the physics community since 1995. In the scientific journal Nature on Thursday 28 August (Advance Online Publication), they e ...

New nanodevice builds electricity from tiny pieces

Jul 06, 2012

( -- A team of scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and University of Cambridge has made a significant advance in using nano-devices to create accurate electrical currents. Electrical ...

Switchyard for single electrons

Feb 25, 2008

German scientists achieved to transfer very small charge "packets", comprising a well-defined number of few electrons, between metallic electrons precisely by using a single-electron pump. A single-electron transistor, being ...

New nanomaterial increases yield of solar cells

Aug 26, 2013

Researchers from the FOM Foundation, Delft University of Technology, Toyota Motor Europe and the University of California have developed a nanostructure with which they can make solar cells highly efficient. ...

Like fish on waves: electrons go surfing

Sep 22, 2011

Physicists at the RUB, working in collaboration with researchers from Grenoble and Tokyo, have succeeded in taking a decisive step towards the development of more powerful computers. They were able to define two little quantum ...

Recommended for you

New terahertz device could strengthen security

Nov 21, 2014

We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures ...

CERN makes public first data of LHC experiments

Nov 21, 2014

CERN today launched its Open Data Portal where data from real collision events, produced by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will for the first time be made openly available to all. It is expected ...

New technique allows ultrasound to penetrate bone, metal

Nov 20, 2014

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique that allows ultrasound to penetrate bone or metal, using customized structures that offset the distortion usually caused by these ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2013
so a leviton is a single electron being excited?
not rated yet Oct 24, 2013
Seems to me it should still just be called an electron, which is already singular, while electrons is plural.
Maybe the process of generating a single electron through varying voltage over time should be called Leviton, or better, the Levitov Process.
I wonder if their desire to name something that already has an accepted name is because Electron isn't French, and France is really pushing to not use any non-French words.
1.4 / 5 (9) Oct 24, 2013
Now if the leviton would levitate matter like an anti graviton??? LOL
1 / 5 (6) Oct 25, 2013
so a leviton is a single electron being excited?

No I think it's the Leviton company that's excited...wonder if they built the apparatus?
Note the abstract quote; '...Here we report that such quasiparticles (hereafter termed levitons)...'
Since we have 'Davydov soliton ·Exciton ·Hole ·Magnon ·Phonon ·Plasmaron ·Plasmon · etc I suppose the difference is that it is an 'isolated electron'?
not rated yet Oct 26, 2013
Pretend you are watching a slow motion film of the surface of water - (Zeph is going to love this) - The film is running in reverse.

You have all seen the slow motion films of the perturbation from an object entering the surface of water (or liquid).

The film is running in reverse. At first you see a relative smooth surface. Out of nowhere ripples appear and concentrate concentrically to a single point. The single point will give rise to an object originally entering the surface (and now leaving the surface because of the films reverse slow motion) just as the film showed the object entering the surface when the film was running forward in slow motion. The object leaving the surface is a leviton.

Whatcha think, Zeph? Not bad, eh?
not rated yet Nov 10, 2013
i ask questioms in an attempt to understand and i get downvoted... good f**king god some people on these forums/articles must be sad and bored

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.