Confined Vacuum Resonances as Artificial Atoms with Tunable Lifetime

Rasa Rejali, Laëtitia Farinacci, David Coffey, Rik Broekhoven, Jeremie Gobeil, Yaroslav M. Blanter, Sander Otte*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Atomically engineered artificial lattices are a useful tool for simulating complex quantum phenomena, but have so far been limited to the study of Hamiltonians where electron-electron interactions do not play a role. However, it is precisely the regime in which these interactions do matter where computational times lend simulations a critical advantage over numerical methods. Here, we propose a platform for constructing artificial matter that relies on the confinement of field-emission resonances, a class of vacuum-localized discretized electronic states. We use atom manipulation of surface vacancies in a chlorine-terminated Cu(100) surface to reveal square patches of the underlying metal, thereby creating atomically precise potential wells that host particle-in-a-box modes. By adjusting the dimensions of the confining potential, we can access states with different quantum numbers, making these patches attractive candidates as quantum dots or artificial atoms. We demonstrate that the lifetime of electrons in these engineered states can be extended and tuned through modification of the confining potential, either via atomic assembly or by changing the tip-sample distance. We also demonstrate control over a finite range of state filling, a parameter which plays a key role in the evolution of quantum many-body states. We model the transport through the localized state to disentangle and quantify the lifetime-limiting processes, illustrating the critical dependence of the electron lifetime on the properties of the underlying bulk band structure. The interplay with the bulk bands gives rise to negative differential resistance, leading to possible applications in engineering custom atomic-scale resonant tunnelling diodes, which exhibit similar current-voltage characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11251-11258
JournalACS Nano
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • electronic lattices
  • electronic lifetime of confined states
  • field-emission resonances
  • negative differential resistance
  • resonant transport
  • scanning tunneling microscopy (STM)
  • scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS)


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