Advances in Physics

Aharonov-Bohm effect in normal metal quantum coherence and transport

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We review some of the recent surprising theoretical and experimental results obtained on the transport properties of small disordered metal samples. Even in the presence of disorder, the quantum mechanical interference of electron wavefunctions can still be observed. The Aharonov-Bohm effect is a particularly clear demonstration of this. In doubly connected structures (such as loops of wire) threaded by a magnetic flux, the electrical conductance oscillates because of the Aharonov-Bohm effect. In fact, because the electron trajectories are diffusive (i.e. random walks), even a lone wire (a singly connected structure) will exhibit a random pattern of conductance fluctuations as a function of the magnetic field because of the same interference effects. All that is required for the observation of these interferences is that the electrons retain ‘phase memory’ duing the period of transit through the sample. The length over which memory is maintained (the phase coherence length) can be much larger than the random walk step length (the mean free path). We focus mainly on effects observed in the limit where the phase coherence length of the electrons is comparable to or larger than the sample size. We explain how the interferences are averaged as the system size grows larger than the phase coherence length. We also remark on surprising aspects of the fluctuations such as those resulting from the non-local character of the wavefunction; some of the results are forbidden classically. © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


01 Jan 1986


Advances in Physics