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Electronic read-out of a single nuclear spin using a molecular spin transistor


Quantum control of individual spins in condensed-matter devices is an emerging field with a wide range of applications, from nanospintronics1,2 to quantum computing3. The electron, possessing spin and orbital degrees of freedom, is conventionally used as the carrier of quantum information in proposed devices4,5,6,7,8,9. However, electrons couple strongly to the environment, and so have very short relaxation and coherence times. It is therefore extremely difficult to achieve quantum coherence and stable entanglement of electron spins. Alternative concepts propose nuclear spins as the building blocks for quantum computing10, because such spins are extremely well isolated from the environment and less prone to decoherence. However, weak coupling comes at a price: it remains challenging to address and manipulate individual nuclear spins11,12,13,14. Here we show that the nuclear spin of an individual metal atom embedded in a single-molecule magnet can be read out electronically. The observed long lifetimes (tens of seconds) and relaxation characteristics of nuclear spin at the single-atom scale open the way to a completely new world of devices in which quantum logic may be implemented.

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Figure 1: Geometry of the molecular spin transistor and magnetization reversal processes.
Figure 2: Conductance characteristics and electronic read-out procedure.
Figure 3: Transition matrix of the QTM events as a function of the waiting time.
Figure 4: Spin-flip dynamics and nuclear spin-state occupancy of the Tb 3+ nuclear spin states.


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We thank E. Eyraud, D. Lepoittevin, L. Cagnon, R. Haettel, C. Hoarau, V. Reita and P. Rodière for technical contributions and discussions. We thank T. Fournier, T. Crozes, B. Fernandez, S. Dufresnes and G. Julie for lithography development; E. Bonet, C. Thirion and R. Piquerel for help with software development and M. Urdampilleta, S. Thiele, N. Roch, A. Varlet and A. Ralko for discussions. Samples were fabricated in the Nanofab facility of the Néel Institute. This work is partially supported by the French National Research Agency National Programme in Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies (ANR-PNANO) project MolNanoSpin, number ANR-08-NANO-002; European Research Council Advanced Grant MolNanoSpin, number 226558; ICT-2007.8.0 Future Emerging Technologies Open, Quantum Information Processing Specific Targeted Research Project number 211284 MolSpinQIP; the German Research Foundation programme TRR 88 ‘3Met’; Cible 2009; and the Nanosciences Foundation of Grenoble.

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R.V., W.W. and F.B. designed, conducted and analysed the experiments; S.K. and M.R. designed, synthesized and characterized the molecule; R.V., M.R., W.W., and F.B. co-wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Mario Ruben or Franck Balestro.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Vincent, R., Klyatskaya, S., Ruben, M. et al. Electronic read-out of a single nuclear spin using a molecular spin transistor. Nature 488, 357–360 (2012).

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