"Field-induced gap and quantized charge pumping in a nanoscale helical wire"

Xiao-Liang Qi: Shou-Cheng Zhang; Phys. Rev. B, 06/30/09.

Additional Authors: Shou-Cheng Zhang


We propose several physical phenomena based on nanoscale helical wires. Applying a static electric field transverse to the helical wire induces a metal to insulator transition, with the band gap determined by the applied voltage. A similar idea can be applied to “geometrically” construct one-dimensional systems with arbitrary external potential. With a quadrupolar electrode configuration, the electric field could rotate in the transverse plane, leading to a quantized dc charge current proportional to the frequency of the rotation. Such a device could be used as a standard for the high-precession measurement of the electric current. The inverse effect implies that passing an electric current through a helical wire in the presence of a transverse static electric field can lead to a mechanical rotation of the helix. This effect can be used to construct nanoscale electromechanical motors. Finally, our methodology also enables ways of controlling and measuring the electronic properties of helical biological molecules such as the DNA.