Conduction of Ultracold Fermions Through a Mesoscopic Channel

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Science  31 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6098, pp. 1069-1071
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223175

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Pretend Wires

Cold atomic gases have been successfully used to simulate solid-state phenomena such as quantum criticality. However, simulating mesoscopic electronic transport like that realized in quantum wires is challenging. Brantut et al. (p. 1069, published online 2 August) connected two reservoirs of fermionic 6Li atoms (simulating electrons) with a narrow channel (simulating a wire), created a nonequilibrium situation by applying a magnetic field gradient, and observed the flow through the channel. When the mean-free path of the atoms exceeded the length of the channel, the atomic density in the channel was constant in the central region and only changed at the ends, indicating the presence of contact resistance. The opposite diffusive regime created by imposing a disordered laser potential produced a uniformly varying density inside the channel.


In a mesoscopic conductor, electric resistance is detected even if the device is defect-free. We engineered and studied a cold-atom analog of a mesoscopic conductor. It consists of a narrow channel connecting two macroscopic reservoirs of fermions that can be switched from ballistic to diffusive. We induced a current through the channel and found ohmic conduction, even when the channel is ballistic. We measured in situ the density variations resulting from the presence of a current and observed that density remains uniform and constant inside the ballistic channel. In contrast, for the diffusive case with disorder, we observed a density gradient extending through the channel. Our approach opens the way toward quantum simulation of mesoscopic devices with quantum gases.

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