Theory of the Franck-Condon blockade regime

Jens Koch*, Felix Von Oppen, A. V. Andreev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

222 Scopus citations


Strong coupling of electronic and vibrational degrees of freedom entails a low-bias suppression of the current through single-molecule devices, termed the Franck-Condon blockade. In the limit of slow vibrational relaxation, transport in the Franck-Condon-blockade regime proceeds via avalanches of large numbers of electrons, which are interrupted by long waiting times without electron transfer. The avalanches consist of smaller avalanches, leading to a self-similar hierarchy which terminates once the number of transferred electrons per avalanche becomes of the order of unity. Experimental signatures of self-similar avalanche transport are strongly enhanced current (shot) noise, as expressed by giant Fano factors, and a power-law noise spectrum. We develop a theory of the Franck-Condon-blockade regime with particular emphasis on the effects of electron cotunneling through highly excited vibrational states. As opposed to the exponential suppression of sequential tunneling rates for low-lying vibrational states, cotunneling rates suffer only a power-law suppression. This leads to a regime where cotunneling dominates the current for any gate voltage. Including cotunneling within a rate-equation approach to transport, we find that both the Franck-Condon blockade and self-similar avalanche transport remain intact in this regime. We predict that cotunneling leads to absorption-induced vibrational sidebands in the Coulomb-blockaded regime as well as intrinsic telegraph noise near the charge degeneracy point.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number205438
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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