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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spatially indirect excitons in coupled quantum wells

  • Author(s): Lai, Chih-Wei Eddy
  • et al.

Microscopic quantum phenomena such as interference or phase coherence between different quantum states are rarely manifest in macroscopic systems due to a lack of significant correlation between different states. An exciton system is one candidate for observation of possible quantum collective effects. In the dilute limit, excitons in semiconductors behave as bosons and are expected to undergo Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) at a temperature several orders of magnitude higher than for atomic BEC because of their light mass. Furthermore, well-developed modern semiconductor technologies offer flexible manipulations of an exciton system. Realization of BEC in solid-state systems can thus provide new opportunities for macroscopic quantum coherence research. In semiconductor coupled quantum wells (CQW) under a cross-well static electric field, excitons exist as separately confined electron-hole pairs. These spatially indirect excitons exhibit a radiative recombination time much longer than their thermal relaxation time a unique feature in direct band gap semiconductor based structures. Their mutual repulsive dipole interaction further stabilizes the exciton system at low temperature and screens in-plane disorder more effectively. All these features make indirect excitons in CQW a promising system to search for quantum collective effects. Properties of indirect excitons in CQW have been analyzed and investigated extensively. The experimental results based on time-integrated or time-resolved spatially-resolved photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy and imaging are reported in two categories. (i) Generic indirect exciton systems: general properties of indirect excitons such as the dependence of exciton energy and lifetime on electric fields and densities were examined. (ii) Quasi-two-dimensional confined exciton systems: highly statistically degenerate exciton systems containing more than tens of thousands of excitons within areas as small as (10 micrometer)^2 were observed. The spatial and energy distributions of optically active excitons were used as thermodynamic quantities to construct a phase diagram of the exciton system, demonstrating the existence of distinct phases. Optical and electrical properties of the CQW sample were examined thoroughly to provide deeper understanding of the formation mechanisms of these cold exciton systems. These insights offer new strategies for producing cold exciton systems, which may lead to opportunities for the realization of BEC in solid-state systems.

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