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KNI Distinguished Seminar

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
3:00pm to 4:00pm
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Noyes 153 (J. Holmes Sturdivant Lecture Hall)
Engineering Coherent Defects in Diamond
Nathalie de Leon, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering, Princeton University,

Speaker: Nathalie de Leon

Talk Title: "Engineering Coherent Defects in Diamond"


Engineering coherent systems is a central goal of quantum science and quantum information processing. Point defects in diamond known as color centers are a promising physical platform. As atom-like systems, they can exhibit excellent spin coherence and can be manipulated with light. As solid-state defects, they can be produced at high densities and incorporated into scalable devices. Diamond is a uniquely excellent host: it has a large band gap, can be synthesized with sub-ppb impurity concentrations, and can be isotopically purified to eliminate magnetic noise from nuclear spins. Specifically, the nitrogen vacancy (NV) center has been used to demonstrate basic building blocks of quantum networks and quantum computers, and has been demonstrated to be a highly sensitive, non-invasive magnetic probe capable of resolving the magnetic field of a single electron spin with nanometer spatial resolution. However, realizing the full potential of these systems requires the ability to both understand and manipulate diamond as a material. I will present two recent results that demonstrate how carefully tailoring the diamond host can open new opportunities in quantum science.

First, currently-known color centers either exhibit long spin coherence times or efficient, coherent optical transitions, but not both. We have developed new methods to control the diamond Fermi level in order to stabilize a new color center, the neutral charge state of the silicon vacancy (SiV) center [1,2]. This center exhibits both the excellent optical properties of the negatively charged SiV center and the long spin coherence times of the NV center, making it a promising candidate for applications as a single atom quantum memory for long distance quantum communication.

Second, color centers placed close to the diamond surface can have strong interactions with molecules and materials external to the diamond, which makes them promising for nanoscale sensing and imaging. However, uncontrolled surface termination and contamination can degrade the color center properties and give rise to noise that obscures the signal of interest. I will describe our recent efforts to stabilize shallow NV centers within 5 nm of the surface using new surface processing and termination techniques [3]. Specifically, we are able to demonstrate reversible and reproducible control over the top layer of atoms. These highly coherent, shallow NV centers will provide a platform for sensing and imaging down to the scale of single atoms.


  1. B. C. Rose, D. Huang, Z. Zhang, P. Stevenson, A. M. Tyryshkin, S. Sangtawesin, S. Srinivasan, L. Loudin, M. L. Markham, A. M. Edmonds, D. J. Twitchen, S. A. Lyon, N. P. de Leon, "Observation of an environmentally insensitive solid state spin defect in diamond," Science 361, 60-63 (2018).‚Äč
  2. B. C. Rose, G. Thiering, A. M. Tyryshkin, A. M. Edmonds, M. L. Markham, A. Gali, S. A. Lyon, N. P. de Leon, "Strongly Anisotropic Spin Relaxation in the Neutral Silicon Vacancy Center in Diamond," Phys. Rev. B 98, 235140 (2018).
  3. S. Sangtawesin, B. L. Dwyer, S. Srinivasan, J. J. Allred, L. V. H. Rodgers, K. De Greve, A. Stacey, N. Dontschuk, K. M. O'Donnell, D. Hu, D. A. Evans, C. Jaye, D. A. Fischer, M. L. Markham, D. J. Twitchen, H. Park, M. D. Lukin, N. P. de Leon, "Origins of diamond surface noise probed by correlating single spin measurements with surface spectroscopy," arXiv:1811.00144 (2018).


Nathalie de Leon is assistant professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. She earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2011 and B.S. from Stanford University in 2004. Her awards and recognition include: DOE Early Career Award (2018), DARPA Young Faculty Award (2018), NSF CAREER Award (2018), Sloan Research Fellow in Physics (2017), and Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator (2017).

The de Leon lab is focused on building quantum devices with color centers in wide bandgap materials. These color centers act as artificial atoms in the solid state, and can have remarkable optical and spin properties. The group studies nanophotonics, device physics, quantum optics, spectroscopy, and materials science in diamond with the technological goals of realizing quantum networks and nanoscale sensors. They are also interested in exploring fundamental quantum optics, magnetism and interactions between spins, and new material systems for quantum technologies. The de Leon group is highly interdisciplinary, and their work spans optics and photonics, surface science and materials spectroscopy, atomic physics techniques, nanofabrication, optoelectronics, and cryogenics.

The KNI Distinguished Seminar Series is a new monthly series hosted by The Kavli Nanoscience Institute where eminent scientists and thinkers with strong yet varied backgrounds in nanoscience and nanotechnology share their expertise with the Caltech community. Seminars consist of a one-hour presentation, followed by a Q&A and light reception. The scopes of presentations may range from: recent outstanding scientific highlights/technological advancements, to innovative early-stage research developments, to broader cross-disciplinary topics that are relevant to nanoscience. Each seminar will be recorded and made available to the public via the KNI's YouTube page.

For more information, please contact Tiffany Kimoto by phone at 626-395-3914 or by email at [email protected] or visit KNI Distinguished Seminar Series.