Quantum Mechanics of the Electromagnetic Environment in the Single-Junction Coulomb Blockade

Abstract

We discuss the interaction of a tunneling electron with its electromagnetic environment|when the latter either is in equilibrium or includes an applied microwave eld. The environment of an isolated tunnel junction is modeled by a set of harmonic oscillators that are suddenly displaced when an electron tunnels across the junction. We treat these displaced oscillators quantum mechanically, predicting behavior that is very dierent than that predicted by a semiclassical treatment. In particular, the shape of the zero-bias anomaly caused by the Coulomb blockade (a single-electron charging eect), is found to be strongly dependent on the impedance, Z(!), of the leads connected to the junction. Comparison with three recent experiments demonstrates that the quantum mechanical treatment of this model correctly describes the essential 1 physics in these systems.

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