Single-electron circuits of the future, consisting of a network of quantum dots, will require a mechanism to transport electrons from one functional part of the circuit to another. For example, in a quantum computer decoherence and circuit complexity can be reduced by separating quantum bit (qubit) manipulation from measurement and by providing a means of transporting electrons between the corresponding parts of the circuit. Highly controlled tunnelling between neighbouring dots has been demonstrated, and our ability to manipulate electrons in single- and double-dot systems is improving rapidly. For distances greater than a few hundred nanometres, neither free propagation nor tunnelling is viable while maintaining confinement of single electrons. Here we show how a single electron may be captured in a surface acoustic wave minimum and transferred from one quantum dot to a second, unoccupied, dot along a long, empty channel. The transfer direction may be reversed and the same electron moved back and forth more than sixty times-a cumulative distance of 0.25 mm-without error. Such on-chip transfer extends communication between quantum dots to a range that may allow the integration of discrete quantum information processing components and devices.
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