Ground-State Electronic Structure of Quasi-One-Dimensional Wires in Semiconductor Heterostructures
We apply density-functional theory, in the local-density approximation, to a quasi-one-dimensional electron gas in order to quantify the effect of Coulomb and correlation effects in modulating and, therefore, patterning, the charge-density distribution. Our calculations are presented specifically for surface-gate-defined quasi-one-dimensional quantum wires in a GaAs-(AlGa)As heterostructure, but we expect our results to apply more generally for other low-dimensional semiconductor systems. We show that at high densities with strong confinement, screening of electrons in the direction transverse to the wire is efficient and density modulations are not visible. In the low-density, weak-confinement regime, the exchange-correlation potential induces small density modulations as the electrons are depleted from the wire. At the weakest confinements and lowest densities, the electron density splits into two rows, thereby forming a pair of quantum wires that lies beneath the surface gates. An additional double-well external potential forms at very low density which enhances this row-splitting phenomenon. We produce phase diagrams that show a transition between the presence of a single quantum wire in a split-gate structure and two quantum wires. We suggest that this phenomenon can be used to pattern and modulate the electron density in low-dimensional structures with particular application to systems where a proximity effect from a surface gate is valuable.