Laser writing of coherent colour centres in diamond

Journal name:
Nature Photonics
Year published:
Published online

Optically active point defects in crystals have gained widespread attention as photonic systems that could be applied in quantum information technologies1, 2. However, challenges remain in the placing of individual defects at desired locations, an essential element of device fabrication. Here we report the controlled generation of single negatively charged nitrogen–vacancy (NV) centres in diamond using laser writing3. Aberration correction in the writing optics allows precise positioning of the vacancies within the diamond crystal, and subsequent annealing produces single NV centres with a probability of success of up to 45 ± 15%, located within about 200 nm of the desired position in the transverse plane. Selected NV centres display stable, coherent optical transitions at cryogenic temperatures, a prerequisite for the creation of distributed quantum networks of solid-state qubits. The results illustrate the potential of laser writing as a new tool for defect engineering in quantum technologies, and extend laser processing to the single-defect domain.

At a glance


  1. Generation of NV− colour centres using laser processing.
    Figure 1: Generation of NV colour centres using laser processing.

    a, PL image of the 25 × 20 array immediately after laser processing (before annealing). The laser pulse energy increases from the bottom to the top of the image. The red line at pulse energy E1 indicates the lowest energy laser pulse that produces visible fluorescence. The drop-off in intensity of features towards the edge of the array is due to field aberrations in the PL microscope. b, Typical spectra measured from points in a that are characteristic of GR1 (single-vacancy) defects, and from c below energy E2 (characteristic of the NV centre) and above energy E2 (characteristic of the radiation B band), as indicated by the orange arrows. c, PL image of the same region of the sample after the annealing process, showing NV emission from multiple sites processed with pulse energies both above and below E1. The green line at pulse energy E2 indicates the graphitization threshold.

  2. Statistics and positioning accuracy of NV generation using laser processing.
    Figure 2: Statistics and positioning accuracy of NV generation using laser processing.

    a, Histogram showing g(2)t) from a single NV centre. b, Histogram of g(2)(0) for the different laser processing sites, allowing the identification of sites of single, double and triple NV centre generation. c, Map of the number of NV centres generated at different sites. ‘NV pair’ refers to a double NV where the two defects are spatially resolved. d, Plot of the number of single (red), double or pair (yellow) and triple (blue) NV centres generated in each row of 20 sites as a function of laser pulse energy measured before the objective lens in the writing apparatus. The total number generated per row is shown in black. e, Magnified image of NV centre fluorescence relative to the laser processing grid. Red circles centred on the grid points are 1 µm in diameter. f, Histogram of the displacement in the image plane for the single NV centres measured after correction for field distortion in the PL microscope. The data are fitted with a cylindrical distribution function (see text).

  3. Spectral properties of single laser-generated NV centres at 4.2 K.
    Figure 3: Spectral properties of single laser-generated NV centres at 4.2 K.

    a, PLE (single sweep) of three different NV centres, with two showing Lorentzian peaks below 14 MHz in width. FWHM values from Lorentzian peak fits are given, with errors in parentheses. b, Colourscale map of repeated PLE spectra of NV3, showing a stable line over 70 laser sweeps with an inhomogeneous linewidth of 16.1 MHz. c, Spectral jumping as a result of a 532 nm re-pump pulse required to restore the negative charge state on ionization. The lower plots in b and c are aggregates of the consecutive sweeps in the colourscale images. d, Scatter plot of the single-scan linewidth (solid circles) and re-pump-broadened linewidth (open circles) for different energies of the laser writing pulse. Data from samples A and B are shown as red and black circles, respectively. The dashed blue line is a guide showing a trend to larger single-scan linewidths with higher pulse energies (see main text).

  4. Spin resonance properties of laser-generated NV centres at 300 K.
    Figure 4: Spin resonance properties of laser-generated NV centres at 300 K.

    Hahn echo data for an NV centre created with pulse energy of 19.6 nJ, fitted with the function I(τ) = y1e−(τ/T2)n + y0, where the exponent n is a free parameter and y0, y1 and T2 are fitting parameters.


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Author information


  1. Department of Materials, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PH, UK

    • Yu-Chen Chen,
    • Laiyi Weng,
    • Philip R. Dolan,
    • Sam Johnson &
    • Jason M. Smith
  2. Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PJ, UK

    • Patrick S. Salter &
    • Martin J. Booth
  3. Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, University of Bristol, Merchant Venturers Building, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UB, UK

    • Sebastian Knauer &
    • John G. Rarity
  4. Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

    • Angelo C. Frangeskou,
    • Colin J. Stephen,
    • Shazeaa N. Ishmael,
    • Ben L. Green,
    • Gavin W. Morley &
    • Mark E. Newton


Y.-C.C. carried out the PL, HBT and PLE measurements with assistance from L.W., P.R.D., and S.J. and coordinated the work. P.S.S. performed the laser writing. S.K. performed the Hahn echo experiments with supervision from J.G.R. A.C.F., C.J.S., B.L.G. and S.N.I. annealed the samples and performed birefringence and Raman imaging with supervision from G.W.M. and M.E.N. J.M.S., M.J.B. and P.S.S. conceived and oversaw the project. All coauthors contributed to writing the manuscript.

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