Controllable electron flow in quantum wires

Princeton researchers have demonstrated a new way of making controllable “quantum wires” in the presence of a magnetic field, according to a new study published in Nature.

The researchers detected channels of conducting electrons that form between two quantum states on the surface of a bismuth crystal subjected to a high magnetic field. These two states consist of electrons moving in elliptical orbits with different orientations.

To the team’s surprise, they found that the current flow in these channels can be turned on and off, making these channels a new type of controllable quantum wire.

“These channels are remarkable because they spontaneously form at the boundaries between different quantum states in which electrons collectively align their elliptical orbits,” said Ali Yazdani, the Class of 1909 Professor of Physics and director of the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, who headed the research. “It is exciting to see how the interaction between electrons in the channels strongly dictates whether or not they can conduct.”

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