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Atomic optical antennas in solids


A resonantly excited atomic optical dipole simultaneously generates propagating (far) and evanescent (near) electromagnetic fields. The near-field component diverges in the limit of decreasing distance, indicating an optical antenna with the potential for enormous near-field intensity enhancement. In principle, any atomic optical dipole in a solid can serve as an optical antenna; however, most of them suffer from environmentally induced decoherence that largely mitigates field enhancement. Here we demonstrate that germanium vacancy centres in diamond—optically coherent atom-like dipoles in a solid—are exemplary antennas. We measure up to million-fold optical intensity enhancement in the near-field of resonantly excited germanium vacancies. In addition to the rich applications already developed for conventional nanoantennas, atomic antennas in the solid state promise to yield interesting new applications in spectroscopy, sensing and quantum science. As one concrete example, we use germanium vacancy antennas to detect and control the charge state of nearby carbon vacancies and generate measurable fluorescence from individual vacancies through Förster resonance energy transfer.

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Fig. 1: The GeV as an antenna.
Fig. 2: GeV antennas sense, manipulate and optically excite proximal vacancies.
Fig. 3: The ZPL splitting is inversely correlated with pumping threshold power.
Fig. 4: Comparison with off-resonant excitation reveals field enhancement.
Fig. 5: The antenna effect of a GeV compared with a silver nanosphere.

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The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We acknowledge funding from Q-NEXT, supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, National Quantum Information Science Research Centers. Z.L. acknowledges support from the Kadanoff-Rice fellowship (grant no. NSF DMR-2011854). Diamond growth-related efforts were supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering Division (N.D.). The membrane bonding work is supported by NSF award no. AM-2240399. This work made use of the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility (Soft and Hybrid Nanotechnology Experimental Resource, NSF award no. ECCS-2025633) and the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (NSF award no. DMR-2011854) at the University of Chicago. F.A. acknowledges support from the ICFOstepstone—PhD Programme funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 713729. D.C. acknowledges support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, under European Research Council grant agreement no. 101002107 (NEWSPIN); the Government of Spain (Severo Ochoa grant no. CEX2019-000910-S); Generalitat de Catalunya (CERCA program and AGAUR project no. 2021 SGR 01442); and Fundació Cellex and Fundació Mir-Puig. First-principles calculations were performed in the MICCoM center—a computational materials science centre funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and used resources of the University of Chicago Research Computing Center.

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Z.L. and X.G. performed the experiments and analysed the data. Y.J. and A.B. performed first-principles calculations under the supervision of G.G. F.A. performed near-field calculations under the supervision of D.C. D.D.A., N.D. and F.J.H. provided the materials. A.A.H. conceived and supervised the project. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the paper.

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Correspondence to Alexander A. High.

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Li, Z., Guo, X., Jin, Y. et al. Atomic optical antennas in solids. Nat. Photon. (2024).

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