Pumping Electrons

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Science  19 Mar 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5409, pp. 1864-1865
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5409.1864

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Most kinds of electrical current flow dissipate energy in the form of heat. There are a few phenomena, however, where dissipationless flow can be observed. In their Perspective, Altshuler and Glazman discuss results reported in the same issue by Switkes et al., in which a process called quantum pumping has been studied. By periodically changing the shape of the electric field in a quantum dot, the researchers were able to pump electrons through it without dissipation. The results shed light on the fundamental physics of such quantum pumps, which in turn may find application in electronic devices.