PerspectiveQuantum Mechanics

Look but don't touch the metals

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Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1073-1074
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6908

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  1. A light touch.

    (A) Single defects in diamond known as NV centers are placed at the surface and separated from the metal layer with a gradient quartz spacer, tens of nanometers in thickness. The spin energy levels of the NV center can be monitored optically, and their response to magnetic fields (which can increase the energy gap) used as a sensitive magnetometer. (B) Rather than measuring the energy levels directly, the relaxation rate between sublevels provides information about the external environment. Well-isolated quantum systems have low relaxation rates because the environment does not provide enough energy to flip the NV spin. Bringing a noisy environment (such as moving electrons) near the NV center induces quantum decoherence and can be used to monitor dynamics in order to differentiate diffusive electron motion from ballistic motion.

    ILLUSTRATION: ADAPTED BY P. HUEY/SCIENCE

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