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Readout and control of a single nuclear spin with a metastable electron spin ancilla


Electron and nuclear spins associated with point defects in insulators are promising systems for solid-state quantum technology1,2,3. The electron spin is usually used for readout and addressing, and nuclear spins are used as exquisite quantum bits4,5 and memory systems3,6. With these systems, single-shot readout of single nuclear spins5,7 as well as entanglement4,8,9, aided by the electron spin, have been shown. Although the electron spin in this example is essential for readout, it usually limits the nuclear spin coherence10, leading to a quest for defects with spin-free ground states9,11. Here, we isolate a hitherto unidentified defect in diamond and use it at room temperature to demonstrate optical spin polarization and readout with exceptionally high contrast (up to 45%), coherent manipulation of an individual excited triplet state spin, and coherent nuclear spin manipulation using the triplet electron spin as a metastable ancilla. We demonstrate nuclear magnetic resonance and Rabi oscillations of the uncoupled nuclear spin in the spin-free electronic ground state. Our study demonstrates that nuclei coupled to single metastable electron spins are useful quantum systems with long memory times, in spite of electronic relaxation processes.

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Figure 1: Optical properties of the ST1 defect.
Figure 2: Optically detected electron spin resonance.
Figure 3: Kinetics of the shelving state and energy-level scheme at zero magnetic field.
Figure 4: Coherent triplet spin manipulation.
Figure 5: Readout and control of a single nuclear spin in the spin-free electronic ground state.


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The authors acknowledge support from the DFG (Forschergruppe 1493 and SFB/TR21) as well as the EU (ERC grant SQUTEC and FP7 grants DIAMANT and QINVC). B.H. acknowledges support from HQOC. The authors thank M. Sellars, P. Hemmer, P. Neumann, R. Kolesov, R. Stöhr and C. Burk for discussions.

Author information




S.L., H.F. and J.W. designed the experiments. S.L., M.W., T.R., T.B., S.Y., M.E., P.S. and H.F. performed the experiments. S.L., M.W., M.D. and H.F. analysed the data. B.H. and M.L. fabricated the nanopillars. M.D., Z.B., A.G. and N.M. provided theoretical support. All authors discussed the data and commented on the manuscript. S.L., M.D., H.F. and J.W. wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Marcus W. Doherty or Helmut Fedder.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Lee, SY., Widmann, M., Rendler, T. et al. Readout and control of a single nuclear spin with a metastable electron spin ancilla. Nature Nanotech 8, 487–492 (2013).

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