Tailored-Potential Pyramidal Quantum Dot Heterostructures

Semiconductor quantum dots are usually compared to artificial atoms, because their electronic structure consists of discrete energy levels as for natural atoms. These artificial systems are integrated in solid materials and can be localized with a spatial precision of the order of nanometers. Besides, they conserve their quantum properties even at quite high temperatures (∼ 10 K). These properties make quantum dots one of the most suitable systems for the realization of quantum devices and computers. However, the energy states and the optical properties of quantum dots are much more complicated than for atoms, because a quantum dot is never an isolated potential well. Instead, its electronic structure depends on the crystallin structure of the semiconductor material and on the Coulomb ion-electron and electron-electron correlations. In particular, the presence of several valence bands and their mixing, induced by quantum confinement, gives rise to novel properties which are still not completely understood and exploited in applications. To get a major advance in this field, a full deterministic control of the spatial shape of the quantum confinement is needed, combined with a deeper understanding of the connections between electronic and optical properties. This thesis work has these two main objectives. We realized and experimentally studied different quantum dot systems, in pyramidal hetero-structures grown with MOCVD techniques. These systems allowed the realization of several different geometries for the carrier confining potential, with a precision in the order of nanometers. The optical characterization has been obtained in particular by means of polarization-resolved microphotoluminescence, magneto-photoluminescence, excitation photoluminescence (PLE), and interferometry techniques. For single quantum dots, we have observed and characterized for the first time new excitonic complexes, arising from excited hole states. This allowed a full caracterizatioon of the valence band hole states in our peculiar system. By means of photon correlation measurements, we have also experimentally demonstrated that, even in presence of a large family of exciton states, these quantum dot systems can emit single photons. We have then realized much more complex quantum dot structures, double dot systems (quantum dot molecules) and a completely new system called Dot-in-Dot (DiD). This latter is composed by a small inner dot surrounded by an electrostatic potential well (which can be considered as an outer elongated dot). Such a composite system is characterized by a strong valence band mixing. This state superposition is however very sensitive to small variations of the confining potential. Therefore the degree of valence band mixing can be easily switched by the introduction of a week external field. Since the valence band mixing determines the polarization properties of the emitted light, the DiD changes the polarization properties of its emission spectrum under the action of an external field. In particular, we have experimentally demonstrated this effect for an external static magnetic field, while we have numerically predicted a very similar effect for a static electric field. In the latter case, the polarization switching is a direct consequence of the quantum confined Stark effect induced in the DiD. Hence the DiD appears to be an ideal candidate for realizing emitters of single photons with tunable and controllable polarization.


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