Klein tunneling in graphene: optics with massless electrons

Colloquium Colloquium

DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2011-20351-3

Cite this article as:
Allain, P.E. & Fuchs, J.N. Eur. Phys. J. B (2011) 83: 301. doi:10.1140/epjb/e2011-20351-3


This article provides a pedagogical review on Klein tunneling in graphene, i.e. the peculiar tunneling properties of two-dimensional massless Dirac electrons. We consider two simple situations in detail: a massless Dirac electron incident either on a potential step or on a potential barrier and use elementary quantum wave mechanics to obtain the transmission probability. We emphasize the connection to related phenomena in optics, such as the Snell-Descartes law of refraction, total internal reflection, Fabry-Pérot resonances, negative refraction index materials (the so called meta-materials), etc. We also stress that Klein tunneling is not a genuine quantum tunneling effect as it does not necessarily involve passing through a classically forbidden region via evanescent waves. A crucial role in Klein tunneling is played by the conservation of (sublattice) pseudo-spin, which is discussed in detail. A major consequence is the absence of backscattering at normal incidence, of which we give a new shorten proof. The current experimental status is also thoroughly reviewed. The Appendix contains the discussion of a one-dimensional toy model that clearly illustrates the difference in Klein tunneling between mono- and bi-layer graphene.

Copyright information

© EDP Sciences, SIF, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut d’Électronique FondamentaleUniv. Paris-Sud, CNRS UMR 8622OrsayFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Physique des SolidesUniv. Paris-Sud, CNRS, UMR 8502OrsayFrance

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