Direct visualization of quantum dots reveals shape of quantum wave function

Trapping and controlling electrons in bilayer graphene quantum dots yields a promising platform for quantum information technologies. Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have now achieved the first direct visualization of quantum dots in bilayer graphene, revealing the shape of the quantum wave function of the trapped electrons.

Bilayer graphene (two layers of graphene, which is a two-dimensional arrangement of carbon atoms in a honeycomb lattice) is an attractive material because it is easy to produce and work with, and quantum dots in bilayer graphene have desirable properties.

Understanding the nature of the quantum dot wave function in bilayer graphene is important because this basic property determines several relevant features for quantum information processing, such as the electron energy spectrum, the interactions between electrons, and the coupling of electrons to their environment.

The team used a method he had developed previously to create quantum dots in monolayer graphene using a Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM). With the graphene resting on an insulating hexagonal boron nitride crystal, a large voltage applied with the STM tip creates charges in the boron nitride that serve to electrostatically confine electrons in the bilayer graphene.

The researchers then used the scanning tunneling microscope to image the electronic states inside and outside of the corral. In contrast to theoretical predictions, the resulting images showed a broken rotational symmetry, with three peaks instead of the expected concentric rings.

This work provides crucial information, such as the energy spectrum of the electrons, needed to develop quantum devices based on this system.

The results have been published in Nano Letters.

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