Excitons bound by photon exchange

A team of researchers successfully created the first artificial atom using photons as threads to weave electrons together.

In contrast to interband excitons in undoped quantum wells, doped quantum wells do not display sharp resonances due to excitonic bound states. The effective Coulomb interaction between electrons and holes in these systems typically leads to only a depolarization shift of the single-electron intersubband transitions. Non-perturbative light–matter interaction in solid-state devices has been investigated as a pathway to tuning optoelectronic properties of materials.

A recent theoretical work predicted that when the doped quantum wells are embedded in a photonic cavity, emission–reabsorption processes of cavity photons can generate an effective attractive interaction that binds electrons and holes together, leading to the creation of an intraband bound exciton.

The scientists spectroscopically observed such a bound state as a discrete resonance that appeared below the ionization threshold only when the coupling between light and matter is increased above a critical value.

Their result has demonstrated that two charged particles can be bound by the exchange of transverse photons. Light–matter coupling can thus be used as a tool in quantum material engineering, tuning electronic properties of semiconductor heterostructures beyond those permitted by mere crystal structures, with direct applications to mid-infrared optoelectronics.

The paper has been published in Nature Physics.