Electrical detection of the spin resonance of a single electron in a silicon field-effect transistor


The ability to manipulate and monitor a single-electron spin using electron spin resonance is a long-sought goal. Such control would be invaluable for nanoscopic spin electronics, quantum information processing using individual electron spin qubits and magnetic resonance imaging of single molecules. There have been several examples1,2 of magnetic resonance detection of a single-electron spin in solids. Spin resonance of a nitrogen-vacancy defect centre in diamond has been detected optically3, and spin precession of a localized electron spin on a surface was detected4,5 using scanning tunnelling microscopy. Spins in semiconductors are particularly attractive for study because of their very long decoherence times6. Here we demonstrate electrical sensing of the magnetic resonance spin-flips of a single electron paramagnetic spin centre, formed by a defect in the gate oxide of a standard silicon transistor. The spin orientation is converted to electric charge, which we measure as a change in the source/drain channel current. Our set-up may facilitate the direct study of the physics of spin decoherence, and has the practical advantage of being composed of test transistors in a conventional, commercial, silicon integrated circuit. It is well known from the rich literature of magnetic resonance studies that there sometimes exist structural paramagnetic defects7 near the Si/SiO2 interface. For a small transistor, there might be only one isolated trap state that is within a tunnelling distance of the channel, and that has a charging energy close to the Fermi level.

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Figure 1: The mechanism for spin-to-charge conversion.
Figure 2: Random telegraph signal senses the defect energy level.
Figure 3: Detailed analysis of the random telegraph signal.
Figure 4: The single electron ESR signal.
Figure 5: ESR induced change in tunnelling rates.


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We would like to thank P. M. Lenahan for information regarding the relaxation of spin centres in SiO2, and K. Wang for helping to secure the samples. The work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Defense MicroElectronics Activity.

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Correspondence to H. W. Jiang.

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Xiao, M., Martin, I., Yablonovitch, E. et al. Electrical detection of the spin resonance of a single electron in a silicon field-effect transistor. Nature 430, 435–439 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02727

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