Letter | Published:

A single-atom electron spin qubit in silicon

Nature volume 489, pages 541545 (27 September 2012) | Download Citation


A single atom is the prototypical quantum system, and a natural candidate for a quantum bit, or qubit—the elementary unit of a quantum computer. Atoms have been successfully used to store and process quantum information in electromagnetic traps1, as well as in diamond through the use of the nitrogen–vacancy-centre point defect2. Solid-state electrical devices possess great potential to scale up such demonstrations from few-qubit control to larger-scale quantum processors. Coherent control of spin qubits has been achieved in lithographically defined double quantum dots in both GaAs (refs 3–5) and Si (ref. 6). However, it is a formidable challenge to combine the electrical measurement capabilities of engineered nanostructures with the benefits inherent in atomic spin qubits. Here we demonstrate the coherent manipulation of an individual electron spin qubit bound to a phosphorus donor atom in natural silicon, measured electrically via single-shot read-out7,8,9. We use electron spin resonance to drive Rabi oscillations, and a Hahn echo pulse sequence reveals a spin coherence time exceeding 200 µs. This time should be even longer in isotopically enriched 28Si samples10,11. Combined with a device architecture12 that is compatible with modern integrated circuit technology, the electron spin of a single phosphorus atom in silicon should be an excellent platform on which to build a scalable quantum computer.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    et al. Optimized dynamical decoupling in a model quantum memory. Nature 458, 996–1000 (2009)

  2. 2.

    et al. Decoherence-protected quantum gates for a hybrid solid-state spin register. Nature 484, 82–86 (2012)

  3. 3.

    et al. Coherent manipulation of coupled electron spins in semiconductor quantum dots. Science 309, 2180–2184 (2005)

  4. 4.

    et al. Driven coherent oscillations of a single electron spin in a quantum dot. Nature 442, 766–771 (2006)

  5. 5.

    , , & Coherent control of a single electron spin with electric fields. Science 318, 1430–1433 (2007)

  6. 6.

    et al. Coherent singlet-triplet oscillations in a silicon-based double quantum dot. Nature 481, 344–347 (2012)

  7. 7.

    et al. Single-shot read-out of an individual electron spin in a quantum dot. Nature 430, 431–435 (2004)

  8. 8.

    et al. Single-shot readout of an electron spin in silicon. Nature 467, 687–691 (2010)

  9. 9.

    et al. Tunable spin loading and T1 of a silicon spin qubit measured by single-shot readout. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 156804 (2011)

  10. 10.

    et al. High-purity, isotopically enriched bulk silicon. J. Electrochem. Soc. 152, G448–G451 (2005)

  11. 11.

    et al. Electron spin coherence exceeding seconds in high purity silicon. Nature Mater. 11, 143–147 (2012)

  12. 12.

    et al. Architecture for high-sensitivity single-shot readout and control of the electron spin of individual donors in silicon. Phys. Rev. B 80, 081307(R) (2009)

  13. 13.

    , , & Embracing the quantum limit in silicon computing. Nature 479, 345–353 (2011)

  14. 14.

    A silicon-based nuclear spin quantum computer. Nature 393, 133–137 (1998)

  15. 15.

    & Electron spin resonance experiments on donors in silicon. II. Electron spin relaxation effects. Phys. Rev. 114, 1245–1256 (1959)

  16. 16.

    et al. Stark tuning of donor electron spins in silicon. Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 176404 (2006)

  17. 17.

    et al. Solid-state quantum memory using the 31P nuclear spin. Nature 455, 1085–1088 (2008)

  18. 18.

    et al. Controlled shallow single-ion implantation in silicon using an active substrate for sub-20-keV ions. Appl. Phys. Lett. 86, 202101 (2005)

  19. 19.

    et al. A single-atom transistor. Nature Nanotechnol. 7, 242–246 (2012)

  20. 20.

    et al. Nanoscale broadband transmission lines for spin qubit control. Preprint at (2012)

  21. 21.

    , , & Electrical detection of the spin resonance of a single electron in a silicon field-effect transistor. Nature 430, 435–439 (2004)

  22. 22.

    & Electron spin echo decay behaviours of phosphorus doped silicon. J. Phys. Soc. Jpn 33, 730–738 (1972)

  23. 23.

    & Quantum theory for electron spin decoherence induced by nuclear spin dynamics in semiconductor quantum computer architectures: Spectral diffusion of localized electron spins in the nuclear solid-state environment. Phys. Rev. B 74, 035322 (2006)

  24. 24.

    et al. Electrical activation and electron spin coherence of ultralow dose antimony implants in silicon. Appl. Phys. Lett. 88, 112101 (2006)

  25. 25.

    et al. Coherence of spin qubits in silicon. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 18, S783–S794 (2006)

  26. 26.

    , & Pairwise decoherence in coupled spin qubit networks. Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 207206 (2006)

  27. 27.

    , , , & Electron spin decoherence in isotope-enriched silicon. Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 187602 (2010)

  28. 28.

    et al. Dynamical decoupling in the presence of realistic pulse errors. Preprint at (2010)

  29. 29.

    et al. Elementary gates for quantum computation. Phys. Rev. A 52, 3457–3467 (1995)

  30. 30.

    , , & Two-dimensional architectures for donor-based quantum computing. Phys. Rev. B 74, 045311 (2006)

Download references


We thank R. P. Starrett, D. Barber, C. Y. Yang and R. Szymanski for technical assistance. We also thank A. Laucht for the Bloch sphere artwork and D. Reilly for comments on the manuscript. This research was funded by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (project number CE11E0096) and the US Army Research Office (W911NF-08-1-0527). We acknowledge support from the Australian National Fabrication Facility.

Author information

Author notes

    • Kuan Y. Tan
    •  & John J. L. Morton

    Present addresses: Department of Applied Physics/COMP, Aalto University, PO Box 13500, FI-00076 Aalto, Finland (K.Y.T.); London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London, London WC1H 0AH, UK (J.J.L.M.).


  1. Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, School of Electrical Engineering & Telecommunications, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • Jarryd J. Pla
    • , Kuan Y. Tan
    • , Juan P. Dehollain
    • , Wee H. Lim
    • , Andrew S. Dzurak
    •  & Andrea Morello
  2. Department of Materials, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3PH, UK

    • John J. L. Morton
  3. Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, School of Physics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

    • David N. Jamieson


  1. Search for Jarryd J. Pla in:

  2. Search for Kuan Y. Tan in:

  3. Search for Juan P. Dehollain in:

  4. Search for Wee H. Lim in:

  5. Search for John J. L. Morton in:

  6. Search for David N. Jamieson in:

  7. Search for Andrew S. Dzurak in:

  8. Search for Andrea Morello in:


K.Y.T. and W.H.L. fabricated the device; D.N.J. designed the phosphorus implantation experiments; J.J.P., K.Y.T., J.J.L.M. and J.P.D. performed the measurements; J.J.P., A.M., A.S.D. and J.J.L.M. designed the experiments and discussed the results; J.J.P. analysed the data; J.J.P. wrote the manuscript with input from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jarryd J. Pla or Andrea Morello.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text and Data 1-5, Supplementary Figures 1-5 and Supplementary References.


  1. 1.

    Supplementary Movie 1

    This movie illustrates the procedure employed to initialise, control and measure the electron spin qubit. The qubit is first initalised in the spin-down state by subjecting it to the electric fields produced by a surface gate. Following this, microwaves are generated to coherently rotate the electron spin. Finally, spin-to-charge conversion is performed to read the state of the qubit.

About this article

Publication history






Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.