Electron transport in nanoparticle single-electron transistors



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Electron transport in nanoparticle single-electron transistors (SETs) is a fruitful method to explore a wide range of physical phenomena at the nanometer scale. In this thesis, we investigate electron transport in SETs incorporating various nanoparticles, including gold nanoparticles in both classical and quantum regimes and Pb nanoparticle in both superconducting and normal states. SETs have been successfully fabricated by incorporating individual gold nanoparticles into the gaps between two electrodes. Although single-electron tunneling behavior is prominent, quantized energy levels cannot be resolved in these SETs due to their relatively large particle sizes. A novel method has been developed to achieve SETs incorporating gold nanoparticles whose sizes are small enough to resolve discrete quantum energy levels. The devices consist of spontaneously-formed ultrasmall gold nanoparticles linked by alkanedithiols to gold electrodes. The devices reproducibly exhibit addition energies of a few hundred meV, which enables the observation of single electron tunneling at room temperature. At low temperatures, resonant tunneling through discrete energy levels in the Au nanoparticles is observed, which is accompanied by the excitations of molecular vibrations at large bias voltage. Having explored the SETs in normal state, we have extended the experiments to superconducting single-electron transistors (SSETs). We first fabricated and characterized Pb superconducting electrodes with nanometer-sized separation. Our observation clearly shows that conventional Barden-Cooper-Schrieffer theory remains valid to interpret the tunneling behavior between two nanometer-spaced Pb electrodes. Furthermore, by incorporating Pb nanoparticles between the two Pb electrodes, we have fabricated SSETs and investigated the transport properties of these devices. In the superconducting state, the conductance is suppressed by a combination of the single electron tunneling effect and the absence of density of states within the superconducting gap. In the suppression regime, the tunneling spectroscopy shows current features that arise from quasiparticle tunneling caused by singularity matching. At low temperature, the features can only be observed for odd charge states in SSETs. At high temperature, the odd-even parity effect is smeared out. Upon application of a magnetic field, the superconducting state is suppressed and single-electron tunneling behavior for normal metallic nanoparticles is recovered.