Electronic and Optical Properties of Semiconductor Quantum Dots

This thesis is devoted to theoretically study the systems of single quantum dots (QDs) embedded in various photonic nanostructures, in close relation with experimental data. The word single is essential: due to their nanometer size, QDs have mainly been studied as ensembles. It is only recently that the experimental progress, in particular in the domain of QDs growth, has allowed to address single QDs. This helped to observe that the confined states in a QD resemble those of an atom, leading in turn to the macro-atom picture for QDs. It opened the path to the study of cavity quantum electrodynamics (CQED) in the solid state, as the analogous of a system of an atom in an electromagnetic cavity. However, already at the level of the QD (i.e. without a solid state cavity), the macro-atom picture has been proven to be oversimplified. Various effects related to the solid state environment of the QD have been experimentally and theoretically evidenced, like the influence of acoustic and optical phonons. These are channels of decoherence for the otherwise well isolated and confined QD levels. When adding the cavity, these effects are possibly enhanced, which can lead to very large deviations from the CQED ideal picture. Therefore the clear understanding of these effects is of essential importance, especially in view of the application of solid state systems to quantum information science. In Chapter 2, we address the radiation-matter coupling between two QDs in a nanocavity. This field of research combines the high quality of light resonators to the nonlinearities of the semiconductor material. It is promising in view of manipulating and transferring single long-lived excitations, an essential goal for quantum information science. Then, we study the deviations of a QD from the idealized macroatom picture. First, in Chapter 3, we include the influence of acoustic phonons on the light emitted by a QD-cavity system. We show that the QD modified susceptibility leads to the qualitative explanation of the cavity feeding effects, which is one of the most striking deviations of the QD-cavity system from the ideal CQED picture. In addition to phonons are extended two-dimensional states populated by the non resonant pumping laser in the QD's wetting layer (WL). In Chapters 4 and 5 we build a Monte-Carlo model of the excitation-decay mechanism in a QD-cavity system. We use it to describe the influence of WL states on the dynamics of the QD, leading in turn to a non-CQED behavior. This approach is particularly successful in the case of large QD-cavity detuning, where it predicts both time-dependent and spectral characteristics of the emitted light. Finally, in Chapter 6, we discuss our conclusions, emphasizing in particular that the knowledge of the actual solid state environment of the QD leads to a better control over the parameters allowing to reach the CQED regime. We also discuss the possible extensions of this work, in particular in relation to the analysis of the stimulated emission regime.


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