Ultrafast optical control of orbital and spin dynamics in a solid-state defect

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Science  12 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6202, pp. 1333-1337
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255541

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Manipulating a defect in diamond

Like magnetic storage in today's classical computers, tiny “magnets” associated with electronic and nuclear states—spins—are promising qubits (quantum bits) for the future. Electronic spins in special defects in diamond called nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers are one example. Whereas most applications focus on the least energetic (ground) state of an NV center, Bassett et al. explored the properties of the higher-energy (excited) state (see the Perspective by Childress). They used light pulses to bring the system into the excited state and to vary the time it stayed there. In this way, they could both deduce the electronic structure of the excited state and manipulate the ground state spin. Similar methods may be applicable to other quantum information systems.

Science, this issue p. 1333; see also p. 1247


Atom-scale defects in semiconductors are promising building blocks for quantum devices, but our understanding of their material-dependent electronic structure, optical interactions, and dissipation mechanisms is lacking. Using picosecond resonant pulses of light, we study the coherent orbital and spin dynamics of a single nitrogen-vacancy center in diamond over time scales spanning six orders of magnitude. We develop a time-domain quantum tomography technique to precisely map the defect’s excited-state Hamiltonian and exploit the excited-state dynamics to control its ground-state spin with optical pulses alone. These techniques generalize to other optically addressable nanoscale spin systems and serve as powerful tools to characterize and control spin qubits for future applications in quantum technology.

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