Single atom defect in 2D material holds quantum information at room temperature

Credit: Unsplash+.

Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery: a single atomic defect in a two-dimensional material can store quantum information for microseconds at room temperature.

This significant find by researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Cambridge highlights the potential of 2D materials to advance quantum technologies.

The defect was found in a material called hexagonal boron nitride (hBN), a thin material made of one-atom-thick layers stacked together.

This discovery is particularly exciting because the defect shows spin coherence, meaning an electron’s spin can hold quantum information under normal conditions.

Remarkably, these spins can be controlled using light.

Until now, only a few materials could maintain quantum information at room temperature, making this a substantial step forward for quantum technologies.

The findings, published in Nature Materials, revealed that the spin coherence at room temperature lasts longer than initially expected.

Carmem M. Gilardoni, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge and co-author of the study, explained, “Our results show that once we write a quantum state onto the spin of these electrons, the information is stored for about one millionth of a second.

This might seem short, but it’s impressive because it works at room temperature without needing large magnets or special conditions.”

Hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) consists of layers held together by molecular forces. Sometimes, tiny flaws called “atomic defects” occur between these layers. These defects can absorb and emit visible light and trap electrons locally. Scientists can now study these trapped electrons and their spin properties, which allow interactions with magnetic fields. For the first time, they can control and manipulate electron spins using light at room temperature.

Dr. Hannah Stern, the first author of the paper and a researcher at The University of Manchester, said, “Working with this system has shown us the power of investigating new materials. The hBN system, as a field, can help us harness excited state dynamics in other new material platforms for future quantum technologies.

Each promising system adds to our toolkit, advancing the scalable implementation of quantum technologies.”

Professor Richard Curry emphasized the importance of this research, stating, “Research into materials for quantum technologies is crucial for supporting the U.K.’s ambitions in this field. This breakthrough strengthens the international impact of our work in quantum materials.”

Though there is still much to explore before this technology is ready for practical use, this discovery paves the way for future applications, especially in sensing technology.

The scientists are working to improve the defects’ reliability and extend the spin storage time.

They are also optimizing the system and material parameters essential for quantum applications, such as defect stability and the quality of emitted light.

This research represents a significant advancement in quantum technology, offering new possibilities for future innovations and applications.

Source: University of Manchester.