Zigzag Phase Transition in Quantum Wires and Localization in the Inhomogeneous One-Dimensional Electron Gas
In this work, we study two important themes in the physics of the interacting one-dimensional (1D) electron gas: the transition from one-dimensional to higher dimensional behavior, and the role of inhomogeneity. The interplay between interactions, reduced dimensionality, and inhomogeneity drives a rich variety of phenomena in mesoscopic physics. In 1D, interactions fundamentally alter the nature of the electron gas, and the homogeneous 1D electron gas is described by Luttinger Liquid theory. We use Quantum Monte Carlo methods to study two situations that are beyond Luttinger Liquid theory --- the quantum phase transition from a linear 1D electron system to a quasi-1D zigzag arrangement, and electron localization in quantum point contacts.
Since the interacting electron gas has fundamentally different behavior in one dimension than in higher dimensions, the transition from 1D to higher dimensional behavior is of both practical and theoretical interest. We study the first stage in such a transition; the quantum phase transition from a 1D linear arrangement of electrons in a quantum wire to a quasi-1D zigzag configuration, and then to a liquid-like phase at higher densities. As the density increases from its lowest values, first, the electrons form a linear Wigner crystal; then, the symmetry about the axis of the wire is broken as the electrons order in a quasi-1D zigzag phase; and, finally, the electrons form a disordered liquid-like phase. We show that the linear to zigzag phase transition occurs even in narrow wires with strong quantum fluctuations, and that it has characteristics which are qualitatively different from the classical transition.
Experiments in quantum point contacts (QPC's) show an unexplained feature in the conductance known as the ``0.7 Effect''. The presence of the 0.7 effect is an indication of the rich physics present in inhomogeneous systems, and we study electron localization in quantum point contacts to evaluate several different proposed mechanisms for the 0.7 effect. We show that electrons form a Wigner crystal in a 1D constriction; for sharp constriction potentials the localized electrons are separated from the leads by a gap in the density, while for smoother potentials, the Wigner crystal is smoothly connected to the leads. Isolated bound states can also form in smooth constrictions if they are sufficiently long. We thus show that localization can occur in QPC's for a variety of potential shapes and at a variety of electron densities. These results are consistent with the idea that the 0.7 effect and bound states observed in quantum point contacts are two distinct phenomena.
one dimensional electron gas
quantum monte carlo
quantum phase transitions
quantum point contacts
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