Intoductory material
Molecular Electronics Group

We consider low temperature transport through a lateral quantum dot asymmetrically coupled to two conducting leads, and tuned to the mixed-valence region separating two adjacent Coulomb blockade valleys with spin S=1/2 and S=1 on the dot. We demonstrate that this system exhibits a quantum phase transition driven by the gate voltage. In the vicinity of the transition the spin on the dot is quantized, even though the fluctuations of charge are strong. The spin-charge separation leads to an unusual Fano-like dependence of the conductance on the gate voltage and to an almost perfect spin polarization of the current through the dot in the presence of a magnetic field.

In a recent work, Le Hur has shown that dissipative coupling to gate electrodes may play an important role in a quantum box near its degeneracy point [K. Le Hur, Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 196804 (2004)]: While quantum fluctuations of the charge of the dot tend to round Coulomb blockade charging steps of the box, strong enough dissipation suppresses these fluctuations and leads to the reappearance of sharp charging steps. In the present paper we study this quantum phase transition in detail using bosonization and numerical renormalization group methods in the limit of vanishing level spacing.

We study the transport properties of a quantum dot (QD) with highly resistive gate electrodes, and show that the QD displays a quantum phase transition analogous to the famous dissipative phase transition first identified by S. Chakravarty [Phys. Rev. Lett. 49, 681 (1982)]; for a review see [A. J. Leggett et al., Rev. Mod. Phys. 59, 1 (1987)]. At temperature T=0, the charge on the central island of a conventional QD changes smoothly as a function of gate voltage, due to quantum fluctuations. However, for sufficiently large gate resistance charge fluctuations on the island can freeze out even at the degeneracy point, causing the charge on the island to change in sharp steps as a function of gate voltage. For Rg < RC the steps remain smeared out by quantum fluctuations. The Coulomb blockade peaks in conductance display anomalous scaling at intermediate temperatures, and at very low temperatures a sharp step develops in the QD conductance.

We develop a theory of electron transport in a double quantum dot device recently proposed for the observation of the two-channel Kondo effect. Our theory provides a strategy for tuning the device to the non-Fermi-liquid fixed point, which is a quantum critical point in the space of device parameters. We explore the corresponding quantum phase transition, and make explicit predictions for behavior of the differential conductance in the vicinity of the quantum critical point.