How a wave packet travels through a quantum electronic interferometer

Together with Christoph Kreisbeck and Rafael A Molina I have contributed a blog entry to the News and Views section of the Journal of Physics describing our most recent work on Aharonov-Bohm interferometer with an imbedded quantum dot (article, arxiv). Can you spot Schrödinger’s cat in the result?

Transition between the resistivity of the nanoring with and without embedded quantum dot. The vertical axis denotes the Fermi energy (controlled by a gate), while the horizontal axis scans through the magnetic field to induce phase differences between the pathways.

Splitting the heat: the quantum limits of thermal energy flow

Device geometry. a) Scanning electron micrograph of the sample. The 1D waveguides with a lithographic width of 170 nm form a half-ring connected to reservoirs A-F. A global top-gate is present. Heating of reservoirs A, B is generated by applying a current Ih, thermal noise measurements are performed at contacts E, F. The reservoirs C and D are left floating. b) Device potential for the ballistic transport model with labels A∗ and E∗ denoting the joined reservoirs A+B and E+F. Harmonic waveguide network with Gaussian scatterer, mode spacing is ħω = 5 meV.
Device geometry. a) Scanning electron micrograph of an the sample. The 1D waveguides with a lithographic width of 170 nm form a half-ring connected to reservoirs A-F. A global top-gate is present. Heating of reservoirs A, B is generated by applying a current Ih, thermal noise measurements are performed at contacts E, F. The reservoirs C and D are left floating. b) Device potential for the ballistic transport model with labels A∗ and E∗ denoting the joined reservoirs A+B and E+F. Harmonic waveguide network with Gaussian scatterer (indicated by arrow). Mode spacing is ħω = 5 meV. © 2016 Kramer et al. Citation: AIP Advances 6, 065306 (2016);

With ever shrinking sizes of electronic transistors, the quantum mechanical nature of electrons becomes more visible. For instance two electrons with the same spin orientation and velocities cannot be at the same location (Pauli blocking). At low temperatures, electronic waves travel many mircometers completely coherently, only reflected by the geometric of the confinement. A tight confinement leads to larger separation of quantized energy levels and restricts the lateral spread of the electrons to specific eigenmodes of a nanowire.

The distribution of the electronic current into various is then given by the geometrical scattering properties of the device interior, which are conveniently computed using wave packets. The ballistic electrons entering a nanodevice carry along charge and thermal energy. The maximum amount of thermal energy Q per time which can be transported through a single channel between two reservoirs of different temperatures is limited to  Q ≤ π2 kB2 (T22-T12)/(3h) [h denotes Planck’s and kB Boltzmann’s constant]. This has implications for computing devices, since this restricts the cooling rate (Pendry 1982).

In a collaboration with the novel materials group at Humboldt University (Prof. S.F. Fischer, Dr. C. Riha, Dr. O. Chiatti, S. Buchholz) and using wafers produced in the lab of A. Wieck, D. Reuter (Bochum, Paderborn) C. Kreisbeck and I have compared theoretical expectations with experimental data for the thermal energy and charge currents in multi-terminal nanorings (AIP Advances 2016, open access). Our findings highlight the influence of the device geometry on both, charge and thermal energy transfer and demonstrate the usefulness of the time-dependent wave-packet algorithm to find eigenstates over a whole range of temperature.

When two electrons collide. Visualizing the Pauli blockade.

The upper panel shows two (non-interacting) electrons approaching with small relative momenta, the lower panel with larger relative momenta.
The upper panel shows two electrons with small relative momenta colliding, in the lower panel with larger relative momenta.

From time to time I get asked about the implications of the Pauli exclusion principle for quantum mechanical wave-packet simulations.
I start with the simplest antisymmetric case: a two particle state given by the Slater determinant of two Gaussian wave packets with perpendicular directions of the momentum:
φa(x,y)=e-[(x-o)2+(y-o)2]/(2a2)-ikx+iky and φb(x,y)=e-[(x+o)2+(y-o)2]/(2a2)+ikx+iky
This yields the two-electron wave function
The probability to find one of the two electrons at a specific point in space is given by integrating the absolute value squared wave function over one coordinate set.
The resulting single particle density (snapshots at specific values of the displacement o) is shown in the animation for two different values of the momentum k (we assume that both electrons are in the same spin state).
For small values of k the two electrons get close in phase space (that is in momentum and position). The animation shows how the density deviates from a simple addition of the probabilities of two independent electrons.
If the two electrons differ already by a large relative momentum, the distance in phase space is large even if they get close in position space. Then, the resulting single particle density looks similar to the sum of two independent probabilities.
The probability to find the two electrons simultaneously at the same place is zero in both cases, but this is not directly visible by looking at the single particle density (which reflects the probability to find any of the electrons at a specific position).
For further reading, see this article [arxiv version].

Computational physics & GPU programming: Solving the time-dependent Schrödinger equation

I start my series on the physics of GPU programming by a relatively simple example, which makes use of a mix of library calls and well-documented GPU kernels. The run-time of the split-step algorithm described here is about 280 seconds for the CPU version (Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5420 @ 2.50GHz), vs. 10 seconds for the GPU version (NVIDIA(R) Tesla C1060 GPU), resulting in 28 fold speed-up! On a C2070 the run time is less than 5 seconds, yielding an 80 fold speedup.

autocorrelation function in a uniform force field
Autocorrelation function C(t) of a Gaussian wavepacket in a uniform force field. I compare the GPU and CPU results using the wavepacket code.

The description of coherent electron transport in quasi two-dimensional electron gases requires to solve the Schrödinger equation in the presence of a potential landscape. As discussed in my post Time to find eigenvalues without diagonalization, our approach using wavepackets allows one to obtain the scattering matrix over a wide range of energies from a single wavepacket run without the need to diagonalize a matrix. In the following I discuss the basic example of propagating a wavepacket and obtaining the autocorrelation function, which in turn determines the spectrum. I programmed the GPU code in 2008 as a first test to evaluate the potential of GPGPU programming for my research. At that time double-precision floating support was lacking and the fast Fourier transform (FFT) implementations were little developed. Starting with CUDA 3.0, the program runs fine in double precision and my group used the algorithm for calculating electron flow through nanodevices. The CPU version was used for our articles in Physica Scripta Wave packet approach to transport in mesoscopic systems and the Physical Review B Phase shifts and phase π-jumps in four-terminal waveguide Aharonov-Bohm interferometers among others.
Here, I consider a very simple example, the propagation of a Gaussian wavepacket in a uniform potential V(x,y)=-Fx, for which the autocorrelation function of the initial state
⟨x,y|ψ(t=0)⟩=1/(a√π)exp(-(x2+y2)/(2 a2))
is known in analytic form:
⟨ψ(t=0)|ψ(t)⟩=2a2m/(2a2m+iℏt)exp(-a2F2t2/(4ℏ2)-iF2t3/(24ℏ m)).
Continue reading “Computational physics & GPU programming: Solving the time-dependent Schrödinger equation”

Time to find eigenvalues without diagonalization

Solving the stationary Schrödinger (H-E)Ψ=0 equation can in principle be reduced to solving a matrix equation. This eigenvalue problem requires to calculate matrix elements of the Hamiltonian with respect to a set of basis functions and to diagonalize the resulting matrix. In practice this time consuming diagonalization step is replaced by a recursive method, which yields the eigenfunctions for a specific eigenvalue.

A very different approach is followed by wavepacket methods. It is possible to propagate a wavepacket without determining the eigenfunctions beforehand. For a given Hamiltonian, we solve the time-dependent Schrödinger equation (i ∂t-H) Ψ=0 for an almost arbitrary initial state Ψ(t=0)  (initial value problem).

The reformulation of the determination of eigenstates as an initial value problem has a couple of computational advantages:

  • results can be obtained for the whole range of energies represented by the wavepacket, whereas a recursive scheme yields only one eigenenergy
  • the wavepacket motion yields direct insight into the pathways and allows us to develop an intuitive understanding of the transport choreography of a quantum system
  • solving the time-dependent Schrödinger equation can be efficiently implemented using Graphics Processing Units (GPU), resulting in a large (> 20 fold) speedup compared to  CPU code
Aharnov-Bohm Ring conductance oscillations
The Zebra stripe pattern along the horizontal axis shows Aharonov-Bohm oscillations in the conductance of a half-circular nanodevice due to the changing magnetic flux. The vertical axis denotes the Fermi energy, which can be tuned experimentally. For details see our paper in Physical Review B.

The determination of transmissions requires now to calculate the Fourier transform of correlation functions <Ψ(t=0)|Ψ(t)>. This method has been pioneered by Prof. Eric J. Heller, Harvard University, and I have written an introductory article for the Latin American School of Physics 2010 (arxiv version).

Recently, Christoph Kreisbeck  has done a detailed calculations on the gate-voltage dependency of the conductance in Aharonov-Bohm nanodevices, taking full adventage of the simultaneous probing of a range of Fermi energies with one single wavepacket. A very clean experimental realization of the device was achieved by Sven Buchholz, Prof. Saskia Fischer, and Prof. Ulrich Kunze (RU Bochum), based on a semiconductor material grown by Dr. Dirk Reuter and Prof. Anreas Wieck (RU Bochum). The details, including a comparison of experimental and theoretical results shown in the left figure, are published in Physical Review B (arxiv version).