Letter | Published:

Optical addressing of an individual erbium ion in silicon

Nature volume 497, pages 9194 (02 May 2013) | Download Citation


The detection of electron spins associated with single defects in solids is a critical operation for a range of quantum information and measurement applications under development1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. So far, it has been accomplished for only two defect centres in crystalline solids: phosphorus dopants in silicon, for which electrical read-out based on a single-electron transistor is used1, and nitrogen–vacancy centres in diamond, for which optical read-out is used4,5,6. A spin read-out fidelity of about 90 per cent has been demonstrated with both electrical read-out1 and optical read-out10,11; however, the thermal limitations of the former and the poor photon collection efficiency of the latter make it difficult to achieve the higher fidelities required for quantum information applications. Here we demonstrate a hybrid approach in which optical excitation is used to change the charge state (conditional on its spin state) of an erbium defect centre in a silicon-based single-electron transistor, and this change is then detected electrically. The high spectral resolution of the optical frequency-addressing step overcomes the thermal broadening limitation of the previous electrical read-out scheme, and the charge-sensing step avoids the difficulties of efficient photon collection. This approach could lead to new architectures for quantum information processing devices and could drastically increase the range of defect centres that can be exploited. Furthermore, the efficient electrical detection of the optical excitation of single sites in silicon represents a significant step towards developing interconnects between optical-based quantum computing and silicon technologies.

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We thank R. Ahlefeldt, J. Bartholomew, R. Elliman, N. Manson and A. Morello for discussions. We also thank M. Hedges and T. Lucas for their help in the initial phase of the experiments. The devices were fabricated by N. Collaert and S. Biesemans. This work was financially supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CE110001027) and the Future Fellowships (FT100100589 and FT110100919).

Author information


  1. Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • Chunming Yin
    • , Gabriele G. de Boo
    •  & Sven Rogge
  2. Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, RSPE, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia

    • Milos Rancic
    •  & Matthew J. Sellars
  3. Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, School of Physics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

    • Nikolas Stavrias
    •  & Jeffrey C. McCallum


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N.S. and J.C.M. designed and performed the implantation. C.Y., M.J.S. and S.R. designed and conducted the experiments. C.Y., M.R. and G.G.d.B. carried out the experiments. All the authors contributed to analysing the results and writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sven Rogge.

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