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Scientists Observe the Elusive Kondo Screening Cloud
Scientists ended a 50-year quest by directly observing a quantum phenomenon An international research group of Professor Heung-Sun Sim has ended a 50-year quest by directly observing a quantum phenomenon known as a Kondo screening cloud. This research, published in Nature on March 11, opens a novel way to engineer spin screening and entanglement. According to the research, the cloud can mediate interactions between distant spins confined in quantum dots, which is a necessary protocol for semiconductor spin-based quantum information processing. This spin-spin interaction mediated by the Kondo cloud is unique since both its strength and sign (two spins favor either parallel or anti-parallel configuration) are electrically tunable, while conventional schemes cannot reverse the sign. This phenomenon, which is important for many physical phenomena such as dilute magnetic impurities and spin glasses, is essentially a cloud that masks magnetic impurities in a material. It was known to exist but its spatial extension had never been observed, creating controversy over whether such an extension actually existed. Magnetism arises from a property of electrons known as spin, meaning that they have angular momentum aligned in one of either two directions, conventionally known as up and down. However, due to a phenomenon known as the Kondo effect, the spins of conduction electrons—the electrons that flow freely in a material—become entangled with a localized magnetic impurity, and effectively screen it. The strength of this spin coupling, calibrated as a temperature, is known as the Kondo temperature. The size of the cloud is another important parameter for a material containing multiple magnetic impurities because the spins in the cloud couple with one another and mediate the coupling between magnetic impurities when the clouds overlap. This happens in various materials such as Kondo lattices, spin glasses, and high temperature superconductors. Although the Kondo effect for a single magnetic impurity is now a text-book subject in many-body physics, detection of its key object, the Kondo cloud and its length, has remained elusive despite many attempts during the past five decades. Experiments using nuclear magnetic resonance or scanning tunneling microscopy, two common methods for understanding the structure of matter, have either shown no signature of the cloud, or demonstrated a signature only at a very short distance, less than 1 nanometer, so much shorter than the predicted cloud size, which was in the micron range. In the present study, the authors observed a Kondo screening cloud formed by an impurity defined as a localized electron spin in a quantum dot—a type of “artificial atom”—coupled to quasi-one-dimensional conduction electrons, and then used an interferometer to measure changes in the Kondo temperature, allowing them to investigate the presence of a cloud at the interferometer end. Essentially, they slightly perturbed the conduction electrons at a location away from the quantum dot using an electrostatic gate. The wave of conducting electrons scattered by this perturbation returned back to the quantum dot and interfered with itself. This is similar to how a wave on a water surface being scattered by a wall forms a stripe pattern. The Kondo cloud is a quantum mechanical object which acts to preserve the wave nature of electrons inside the cloud. Even though there is no direct electrostatic influence of the perturbation on the quantum dot, this interference modifies the Kondo signature measured by electron conductance through the quantum dot if the perturbation is present inside the cloud. In the study, the researchers found that the length as well as the shape of the cloud is universally scaled by the inverse of the Kondo temperature, and that the cloud’s size and shape were in good agreement with theoretical calculations. Professor Sim at the Department of Physics proposed the method for detecting the Kondo cloud in the co-research with the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, the City University of Hong Kong, the University of Tokyo, and Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. Professor Sim said, “The observed spin cloud is a micrometer-size object that has quantum mechanical wave nature and entanglement. This is why the spin cloud has not been observed despite a long search. It is remarkable in a fundamental and technical point of view that such a large quantum object can now be created, controlled, and detected. Dr. Michihisa Yamamoto of the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science also said, “It is very satisfying to have been able to obtain real space image of the Kondo cloud, as it is a real breakthrough for understanding various systems containing multiple magnetic impurities. The size of the Kondo cloud in semiconductors was found to be much larger than the typical size of semiconductor devices.” Publication: Borzenets et al. (2020) Observation of the Kondo screening cloud. Nature, 579. pp.210-213. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2058-6 Profile: Heung-Sun Sim, PhD Professor email@example.com https://qet.kaist.ac.kr/ Quantum Electron Correlation & Transport Theory Group (QECT Lab) https://qc.kaist.ac.kr/index.php/group1/ Center for Quantum Coherence In COndensed Matter Department of Physics https://www.kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea
Ultrafast Quantum Motion in a Nanoscale Trap Detected
< Professor Heung-Sun Sim (left) and Co-author Dr. Sungguen Ryu (right) > KAIST researchers have reported the detection of a picosecond electron motion in a silicon transistor. This study has presented a new protocol for measuring ultrafast electronic dynamics in an effective time-resolved fashion of picosecond resolution. The detection was made in collaboration with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) in Japan and National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the UK and is the first report to the best of our knowledge. When an electron is captured in a nanoscale trap in solids, its quantum mechanical wave function can exhibit spatial oscillation at sub-terahertz frequencies. Time-resolved detection of such picosecond dynamics of quantum waves is important, as the detection provides a way of understanding the quantum behavior of electrons in nano-electronics. It also applies to quantum information technologies such as the ultrafast quantum-bit operation of quantum computing and high-sensitivity electromagnetic-field sensing. However, detecting picosecond dynamics has been a challenge since the sub-terahertz scale is far beyond the latest bandwidth measurement tools. A KAIST team led by Professor Heung-Sun Sim developed a theory of ultrafast electron dynamics in a nanoscale trap, and proposed a scheme for detecting the dynamics, which utilizes a quantum-mechanical resonant state formed beside the trap. The coupling between the electron dynamics and the resonant state is switched on and off at a picosecond so that information on the dynamics is read out on the electric current being generated when the coupling is switched on. NTT realized, together with NPL, the detection scheme and applied it to electron motions in a nanoscale trap formed in a silicon transistor. A single electron was captured in the trap by controlling electrostatic gates, and a resonant state was formed in the potential barrier of the trap. The switching on and off of the coupling between the electron and the resonant state was achieved by aligning the resonance energy with the energy of the electron within a picosecond. An electric current from the trap through the resonant state to an electrode was measured at only a few Kelvin degrees, unveiling the spatial quantum-coherent oscillation of the electron with 250 GHz frequency inside the trap. Professor Sim said, “This work suggests a scheme of detecting picosecond electron motions in submicron scales by utilizing quantum resonance. It will be useful in dynamical control of quantum mechanical electron waves for various purposes in nano-electronics, quantum sensing, and quantum information”. This work was published online at Nature Nanotechnology on November 4. It was partly supported by the Korea National Research Foundation through the SRC Center for Quantum Coherence in Condensed Matter. For more on the NTT news release this article, please visit https://www.ntt.co.jp/news2019/1911e/191105a.html Profile: Prof. Heung-Sun Sim Professor, Department of Physics Director, SRC Center for Quantum Coherence in Condensed Matter Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Daejeon 34141, Korea firstname.lastname@example.org https://qet.kaist.ac.kr Publication: Gento Yamahata, Sungguen Ryu, Nathan Johnson, H.-S. Sim, Akira Fujiwara, and Masaya Kataoka. 2019. Picosecond coherent electron motion in a silicon single-electron source. Nature Nanotechnology (Online Publication). 6 pages. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-019-0563-2 Link to download the full-text paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41565-019-0563-2.pdf
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