Diamond dynamics under control

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Science  12 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6202, pp. 1247
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257840

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Ultrafast pulses from mode-locked lasers have become a preeminent tool for characterizing and controlling systems as diverse as biologically active molecules and semiconductor quantum dots. By varying the time between successive pulses, a vast range of temporal dynamics can be investigated, revealing dissipation mechanisms and even coherent processes. On page 1333 of this issue, Bassett et al. (1) realize ultrafast control over the optical transitions of a nitrogenvacancy (NV) center, an atomic-like defect in diamond that has recently received considerable attention in the context of solid-state quantum devices. Overcoming technical challenges associated with addressing a single emitter at cryogenic temperatures, their work probes dynamics on nano-, pico-, and even femtosecond time scales, creating a precise map of the NV center's excited state. Moreover, they use the same tools to realize fast, all-optical control over a long-lived quantum bit (qubit) formed by the defect's spin degrees of freedom.