Imaging of nonlocal hot-electron energy dissipation via shot noise

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Science  18 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6390, pp. 775-778
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9991

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Taking the temperature of hot electrons

As electronic chips become smaller, efficient heat dissipation becomes a greater challenge. Electrons in such devices quickly accelerate over small distances, becoming “hot”—that is, out of equilibrium with the rest of the system. Weng et al. designed a thermometry probe that measures the effective temperature of hot electrons with a spatial resolution of about 50 nanometers. The method is based on the optical measurement of current noise and provides a glimpse into where heat is naturally dissipated in a working device.

Science, this issue p. 775


In modern microelectronic devices, hot electrons accelerate, scatter, and dissipate energy in nanoscale dimensions. Despite recent progress in nanothermometry, direct real-space mapping of hot-electron energy dissipation is challenging because existing techniques are restricted to probing the lattice rather than the electrons. We realize electronic nanothermometry by measuring local current fluctuations, or shot noise, associated with ultrafast hot-electron kinetic processes (~21 terahertz). Exploiting a scanning and contact-free tungsten tip as a local noise probe, we directly visualize hot-electron distributions before their thermal equilibration with the host gallium arsenide/aluminium gallium arsenide crystal lattice. With nanoconstriction devices, we reveal unexpected nonlocal energy dissipation at room temperature, which is reminiscent of ballistic transport of low-temperature quantum conductors.

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