Optically active point defects in crystals have gained widespread attention as photonic systems that could be applied in quantum information technologies1,2. However, challenges remain in the placing of individual defects at desired locations, an essential element of device fabrication. Here we report the controlled generation of single negatively charged nitrogen–vacancy (NV) centres in diamond using laser writing3. Aberration correction in the writing optics allows precise positioning of the vacancies within the diamond crystal, and subsequent annealing produces single NV centres with a probability of success of up to 45 ± 15%, located within about 200 nm of the desired position in the transverse plane. Selected NV centres display stable, coherent optical transitions at cryogenic temperatures, a prerequisite for the creation of distributed quantum networks of solid-state qubits. The results illustrate the potential of laser writing as a new tool for defect engineering in quantum technologies, and extend laser processing to the single-defect domain.

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Y.-C.C. thanks DeBeers for financial support and S.N.I. acknowledges support from the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Diamond Science and Technology (EP/L015315/1). The work was supported by grants from the European Commission (Wavelength tunable Advanced Single Photon Sources (WASPS), grant agreement no 618078), the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, (EP/M013243/1) and The Leverhulme Trust.

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  1. Department of Materials, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PH, UK

    • Yu-Chen Chen
    • , Laiyi Weng
    • , Philip R. Dolan
    • , Sam Johnson
    •  & Jason M. Smith
  2. Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PJ, UK

    • Patrick S. Salter
    •  & Martin J. Booth
  3. Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, University of Bristol, Merchant Venturers Building, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UB, UK

    • Sebastian Knauer
    •  & John G. Rarity
  4. Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

    • Angelo C. Frangeskou
    • , Colin J. Stephen
    • , Shazeaa N. Ishmael
    • , Ben L. Green
    • , Gavin W. Morley
    •  & Mark E. Newton


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Y.-C.C. carried out the PL, HBT and PLE measurements with assistance from L.W., P.R.D., and S.J. and coordinated the work. P.S.S. performed the laser writing. S.K. performed the Hahn echo experiments with supervision from J.G.R. A.C.F., C.J.S., B.L.G. and S.N.I. annealed the samples and performed birefringence and Raman imaging with supervision from G.W.M. and M.E.N. J.M.S., M.J.B. and P.S.S. conceived and oversaw the project. All coauthors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jason M. Smith.

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