Locally induced quantum interference in scanning gate

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Locally induced quantum interference in scanning gate experiments
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2014 New J. Phys. 16 053031
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Locally induced quantum interference in scanning
gate experiments
A A Kozikov, R Steinacher, C Rössler, T Ihn, K Ensslin, C Reichl and
W Wegscheider
Solid State Physics Laboratory, ETH Zürich, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland
E-mail: [email protected]
Received 10 October 2014, revised 5 April 2014
Accepted for publication 9 April 2014
Published 16 May 2014
New Journal of Physics 16 (2014) 053031
We present conductance measurements of a ballistic circular cavity influenced
by a scanning gate. In contrast to previous studies, we demonstrate the use of
scanning gate microscopy as a tool for tailoring the potential landscape of
nanostructures with a high degree of control. When the tip depletes the electron
gas below, we observe very pronounced and regular fringes covering the entire
cavity. The fringes correspond to transmitted modes in constrictions formed
between the tip-induced potential and the boundaries of the cavity. Moving the
tip and counting the fringes gives us exquisite control over the transmission of
these constrictions. We use this control to form a quantum ring with a specific
number of modes in each arm showing the Aharonov–Bohm effect in low-field
magnetoconductance measurements.
Keywords: quantum interference, scanning probe microscopy, high-mobility
1. Introduction
Semiconductor nanostructures are usually defined electrostatically using top–down or
bottom–up approaches. For example, one can use suitably biased lateral gates or selfassembled systems based on sophisticated growth schemes to prepare semiconductor quantum
structures. In all these cases, the main features of the potential landscape are defined for each
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New Journal of Physics 16 (2014) 053031
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New J. Phys. 16 (2014) 053031
sample and are only weakly tunable. Using the conductive tip of a scanning force microscope as
a movable top gate allows for more advanced control over the potential. In addition to the tipsample bias voltage, the tip-surface distance and the in-plane tip position can be changed. The
variable strength and gradient of the tip-induced potential provides one with the possibility of
tailoring the potential landscape of nanostructures. In the past this scanning gate microscopy
(SGM) technique was used to study the conductance of predefined nanostructures. For example,
Topinka et al, Paradiso et al and Kozikov et al imaged electron backscattering through a
quantum point contact (QPC) [1–4]. These experiments demonstrated that SGM allows one to
observe features smaller than the Fermi wavelength. In addition, Pioda et al and Fallahi et al
looked into single electron transport in quantum dots [5, 6] and Woodside et al in carbon
nanotubes [7]. Hackens et al probed electron transport through a quantum ring [8, 9].
In this paper, we demonstrate how to extend this technique to alter the potential landscape
in a ballistic cavity using a scanning gate. In the previous paper [10] we showed how to form
QPCs with the SGM tip at the openings of the cavity. At the same time, everywhere else inside
the cavity we observed irregular conductance fluctuations governed by chaotic electron
dynamics or disorder. This irregular behavior is similar to that observed in previous SGM
studies of ballistic cavities [11, 12]. The formation of the QPCs with the tip demonstrates the
possibility of using SGM as a tool to alter the potential landscape in order to form more
complex nanostructures. We observe regular modulations and fringe patterns in the spatially
resolved conductance covering the entire ballistic cavity in contrast to the previous studies
[10–12]. The control achieved over the potential landscape is used to form a quantum ring
showing Aharonov–Bohm oscillations. This requires to have a spatially and temporally very
stable setup. The observation of the Aharonov–Bohm oscillations in our samples testifies to the
quality of our experimental setup as well as to the potential to investigate quantum effects in
more detail in complex nanostructures whose potential can be tailored with the scanning gate.
2. Experimental methods
The microstructure is fabricated on a high-mobility GaAs/AlGaAs heterostructure. The electron
gas buried 120 nm beneath the surface has a mobility of 3.8 × 106 cm2 Vs−1 at 300 mK at a
carrier density of 1.5 × 1011 cm −2 . This gives an elastic mean free path le = 50 μm and a Fermi
wavelength of electrons λ F = 65 nm.
The device under study consists of three circular stadii connected in series with different
lithographic diameters 1.0, 1.2 and 1.5 μm. In this paper we focus on the largest cavity with the
diameter D = 1.5 μm, which is shown in figure 1 (a). The structure is defined by applying a
negative voltage to the corresponding metallic gate electrodes t1, t 2 , t 3, b1and b 2 fabricated by ebeam lithography, each 30 nm high. The electron gas beneath them becomes depleted at -0.4 V.
Since D ≪ le , transport through the cavity is ballistic. At the same time D ≫ λ F .
The measurements are performed in a 3He system with a base temperature of 300 mK
using a home-built scanning force microscope [13]. The two-terminal linear conductance G
through the device is measured by applying a 26 Hz ac rms voltage of 100 μV between the
source and drain contacts. Scanning gate measurements are performed by placing the metallic
biased tip of the scanning force microscope 60 nm above the sample surface. The tip scans the
surface at a constant height and G is recorded simultaneously leading to 2D maps G ( x, y ) as a
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New J. Phys. 16 (2014) 053031
Figure 1. (a) SEM image of the device. The dark grey area corresponds to the GaAs
surface, bright grey regions labeled t1, t 2 and t 3, b1 and b2 are metallic top gates. The ac
current flows between the source ‘S’ and drain ‘D’ contacts. The size of the tip-depleted
disc is schematically represented by the dark blue circle. (b) Conductance, G, through
the cavity in units of 2e 2 /h as a function of tip position, (x,y). The biased t 2 and b1 and
grounded t1, t 3 and b2 top gates are outlined by black and grey solid lines, respectively.
(c) Conductance and its numerical derivative along the black dashed line shown in (b).
Vertical red dashed lines in (c) together with red arrows in (b) mark the borders of the
checker-board pattern. The coordinate r = 0 μm is labeled at the left end of the black
dashed line. (d) Numerical derivative of the conductance in (b), dG ( x, y ) dx , as a
function of tip position. The black dashed line is at the same position as that in (b). The
black square is the region where high-resolution measurements are taken. Yellow
arrows in (b) and (d) mark the lens-shaped region of zero conductance arising when the
tip is close to the left constriction. Voltages -0.5 and -4.0 V are applied to the top gates
and the tip, respectively. The tip is placed 60 nm above the GaAs surface. Biased top
gates are labeled in (b) and (d).
function of lateral tip position (x,y). A voltage of -4 V between the tip and the 2DEG is chosen
to deplete the electron gas beneath the tip. The resulting diameter of the depletion region is
about 0.7 μm [10].1
The presence of the lens-shaped region of zero conductance in a region where the cavity connects to the leads
indicates that the tip-depleted region is larger than this opening, which in our case is W ≈ 0.6 μm wide (the width
of the left opening in figure 1(d) at the studied gate voltage is approximately equal to its lithographic width). If this
region were a line, then the diameter of the tip-depleted region was DTip = W = 0.6 μm. In the experiment this
region has the shape of a lens. With respect to the center of the constriction (center of the lens-shaped region) the
tip can move up and down by half the width of the lens, l 2 ≈ 50 nm, still blocking the current. Thus, the final
DTip = W + l ≈ ( 0.6 + 0.1) μm = 0.7 μm.
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New J. Phys. 16 (2014) 053031
Figure 1(b) shows the conductance through the cavity in color when a voltage of -0.5 V is
applied to the top gates t 2 and b1 outlined with black solid lines. This voltage reduces the
electronic size of the structure by about 100 nm compared to the geometric size. When the tip is
inside the structure, G decreases from the tip-unpertubed value G ≈ 17.2 × 2e 2 h to zero (lensshaped regions of dark blue color marked by the yellow arrow). Such a drop of the conductance
is due to backscattering of electrons at the tip-depleted region. As the tip comes close enough to
one of the constrictions, its depletion disc blocks the current entirely. The conductance is not
reduced to zero when the tip is close to the right constriction, because this constriction is larger
than the left. When the tip is above the top gates or outside the structure, the conductance is
enhanced to G ≈ 18.5 × 2e 2 h (dark red area) compared to G without the tip. Such an
enhancement has been observed by us in seven different stadii, four of which have different
diameters. Qualitatively it is due to a tip-induced transition from Ohmic to adiabatic transport
[10, 14]. The tip potential guides electrons adiabatically through the cavity enhancing the
conductance compared to the situation in which the total resistance is roughly the sum of
resistances of the entrance and exit of the cavity. Transport is in both cases dominated by the
resistance of the narrowest constriction.
On closer inspection one can see faint fringes in the central region (along the dashed line
between two red arrows) of the cavity. Figure 1(c) shows the corresponding conductance along
the black dashed line in (b). Indeed, G oscillates in this region (enclosed between the two
vertical red lines) and stays on average roughly at a constant value of G ≈ 7 × 2e 2 h. Such
behavior can intuitively arise from the formation of two narrow channels between the tipdepleted region and t 2 and b1 each having its own quantized conductance G1 and G2. Classically
the total conductance would then be G = G1 + G2 . Outside the central region one of these
channels is depleted and G is determined by the remaining channel, i.e. either G1 or G2. As this
channel becomes wider, G increases steeply as seen in the two regions outside the vertical
dashed red lines. Small ‘shoulders’ in G seen in these two regions correspond to quantized
conductance of the remaining channel. The ‘shoulders’ do not appear at integer multiples of
2e 2 h, because of the tip position dependent series resistance, interference [10] and
backscattering effects [4]. Such small modulation of G can be revealed by taking a numerical
derivative dG ( r ) dr (green curve in figure 1(c)). Conductance oscillations are now clearly seen
along the entire length of the chosen 1D cut.
To reveal such small changes in G in the entire area of figure 1(b), a numerical derivative
dG ( x, y ) dx with respect to the scan direction is plotted in figure 1(d). Several fringe patterns
covering the entire structure are now visible. Two of them are located at the left constriction
around the lens-shaped region (marked by the yellow arrow) and at the right constriction. These
fringes originate from conductance quantization in single QPCs formed between the tip-induced
potential and the boundaries of the cavity [10]. For example, when the tip moves from the left
lens-shaped region towards the top gate t 2 , a constriction opens gradually between the tip and
the lower top gate b1. As its width increases, more modes are transmitted through it. Each added
mode corresponds to one fringe period. The fringe spacing in the image is not constant because
the constriction width depends on the subband spacing and because the carrier density inside
these constrictions changes by the tip-induced potential.
Each fringe at the left lens-shaped region in figure 1(d) evolves continuously through the
center of the cavity to a corresponding fringe at the right constriction. This gives rise to a
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New J. Phys. 16 (2014) 053031
Figure 2. (a) Conductance, G ( x, y ), through the cavity 1.5 μm in diameter in units of
2e 2 /h as a function of tip position in the region indicated in figure 1(d) by a square. (b)
Numerical derivative of the conductance in (a), dG ( x, y ) dx . The top gates and the tip
are biased to -0.5 and -4.0 V, respectively. (c) Modeled conductance and (d) its
numerical derivative.
checkerboard pattern formed in the central region of the structure. The 1D cut discussed in (c) is
taken across this pattern (its borders are marked by the same red arrows as in (b)).
To check the proposed origin of the checkerboard pattern in the center of the cavity, we
take a separate high-resolution measurement of this region and compare the results with
computer modeling. Figure 2 shows the mentioned checkerboard pattern both in the raw
conductance (a) and in its numerical derivative (b). In order to model this situation, we consider
four constrictions: two, a and b, at the entrance and exit of the cavity. The two others, c and d,
form between the tip-depleted region and either gate t 2 or b1 [10]. We treat them as four
G −1 = Ga−1 + ( Gc + Gd )
+ Gb−1. The conductance of each constriction is taken to be
Gi = 2e 2 h × Ni (i = a, b, c and d), where Ni = 2Wi λ F is the number of transmitted modes
in constriction i and Wi is the width of constriction i. As the tip moves, only Nc and Nd change in
our model for simplicity. The numbers Na = 18 (Wa = 0.6 μm) and Nb = 25 (Wb = 0.8 μm) are
kept fixed. The resulting G and dG ( x, y ) dx are shown in figure 2(c) and (d), respectively, as a
function of tip position.
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New J. Phys. 16 (2014) 053031
Figure 3. (a) Conductance, G ( x, y ), through the largest cavity. The top gates are now
biased (black solid lines) to form a more symmetric cavity. The grounded top gates are
indicated by grey solid lines. (b) Numerical derivative of the conductance in (a),
dG ( x, y ) dx . The inset is the central region of the cavity enlarged for clarity. The red
arrows indicate two fringes each corresponding to one transmitted mode in each arm of
the ring. All top gates are labeled.
The model shows a reasonable qualitative and quantitative agreement with the
experimental data along line A shown in figure 2(a) and (c). Along line B the agreement is
only qualitative. This is because the model does not take into account the tip-induced transition
from Ohmic to adiabatic transport. In addition, the tip-induced potential in the model is
assumed to be a hard-wall and the four conductors are incoherently coupled. The latter is a
rough approximation. When the tip is in the central part of the cavity, it forms an electronic ring
together with the boundaries of the cavity (gates t 2 and b1). Since each arm gives its own set of
parallel fringes, a checkerboard pattern forms in the model in figure 2(d) similar to the
experimental observation in figure 2(b). The shape of the fringes follows the inner edge of the
respective top gate. The experiment shows rather sharp kinks in the fringe pattern, whereas the
simulation does not. This could arise, because the tip-induced potential or the electrostatic edges
of the cavity may not be perfectly round.
Counting the measured fringes enables us to determine and then set the exact number of
transmitted modes in the constrictions formed between the tip-induced potential and the
boundaries of the cavity. Having such an exquisite control allows us to tune the system to form
an Aharonov–Bohm ring with a specific number of modes in each arm. As an example, in
figure 3 voltages are applied to the gates b1, t 2 and t 3 to have a symmetric cavity (note that the
lens-shaped regions are almost the same size) with only two fringes in its middle (see inset of
figure 3(b)). The number of fringes in the checkerboard pattern yields the number of transmitted
modes in each arm of the ring. Placing the tip between these two fringes (inset in figure 3(b))
and in the middle between the lens-shaped regions forms the desired Aharonov–Bohm (AB)
ring. We tune the entrance and exit of this ring to transmit only a few modes. For this purpose,
after fixing the tip position as described, the two previously grounded gates t1, b2 are biased to
the same voltage of -0.5 V. The conductance, G B, Vg , is then measured as a function of the
magnetic field and the voltage applied to all top gates of the structure.
The resulting G B, Vg taken at a source-drain bias of 10 μV are presented in figure 4 (a).
They show a small (about 0.3%) modulation of G marked by black arrows. Subtracting a slowly
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New J. Phys. 16 (2014) 053031
Figure 4. (a) Low-field magnetoconductance measured through a tip formed ring.
Curves of different colors correspond to different gate voltages with a step of -1.93 mV.
The inset shows a schematic of the tip-formed Aharonov–Bohm ring. (b) A Fourier
spectrum of the black curve in (a) with the subtracted background. (c), (d) Filtered data
from two- and four-terminal measurements, respectively. Equidistantly spaced vertical
dashed lines are guides to the eye.
varying background due to classical effects and taking a Fourier spectrum reveals a single peak
at a frequency of about 185 T−1 (figure 4(b)). This peak corresponds to an oscillation period of
5.4 mT, which agrees roughly with the h e period of a ring with an estimated diameter of 1 μm.
One conductance curve band-pass filtered around the peak in the Fourier spectrum is shown in
figure 4(c).
The AB oscillations are found to be very sensitive to the tip position on the scale of half
the Fermi wavelength. They exist only in a narrow range of gate voltages. Nevertheless, the
oscillations were reproducibly found in different cooldowns and with different tips measured in
two- and four-terminal configuration. As an example, we present in figure 4(d) the result of the
filtered data similar to those shown in figure 4(c) but obtained using a four-terminal
configuration by passing a current of 1 nA through the sample. The relative amplitudes of the
AB oscillations in two- (about 0.3%) and four-terminal (about 0.5%) measurements are very
3. Conclusion
We have presented results of transport measurements through a ballistic circular cavity, the
potential of which was modified by a scanning gate. Conductance maps as a function of tip
position revealed fringe patterns covering the entire structure. The fringes correspond to
conductance quantization plateaus in constrictions formed between the tip-induced potential
and the boundaries of the cavity. At the entrance and exit of the cavity the tip formed single
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New J. Phys. 16 (2014) 053031
constrictions together with either gate of the cavity. This lead to single sets of fringes. In the
center of the microstructure they crossed each other, forming a checkerboard pattern—
corresponding to a situation when the tip created a quantum ring. Transport in this case occurred
through both arms of the ring. Results of computer modeling agreed qualitatively with our
experimental observations.
To transmit through the cavity, electron waves are split into two by the tip and interfere
when recombined at the other side. By counting the fringes, a specific number of transmitted
modes in the arms of the ring was set. As a result we observed conductance oscillations as a
function of low magnetic field due to the Aharonov–Bohm effect.
We are grateful for fruitful discussions with Fabrizio Nichele. We acknowledge financial
support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and NCCR ‘Quantum Science and
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