Synopsis: Chemical manipulation of nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond

Surface termination is used to chemically control the state of nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond.
Synopsis figure
Credit: M. Hauf et al., Phys. Rev. B (2011)

A nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center in diamond is a point defect consisting of a nitrogen atom substituting for a carbon atom that sits beside a lattice vacancy. The defect with two well-known charge states, a neutral NV0 and a negatively charged NV- state, has received considerable attention because of its unique photoluminescence properties in the visible range, allowing an optical readout of the spin state at room temperature. The excitement around the NV centers in diamond comes from their potential use for spintronics applications and quantum computation.

In a recent Rapid Communication in Physical Review B, Moritz Hauf and collaborators from Technische Universität München, University of Stuttgart, and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, all in Germany, have found a way to chemically control the charge state of NV centers in diamond. By changing the surface termination from oxygen to hydrogen, stable NV- centers, ion-implanted a few nanometers below the surface of diamond, are converted into an NV0 state and subsequently into a nonfluorescent state. Hauf et al. also study numerically the band bending from the surface termination that induces a p-type surface conductive layer to deplete the electrons in the NV- centers underneath. The deeper the NV centers are implanted into the crystal, the weaker is the effect of the surface termination. This work opens the way to an electrostatic means of switching the charge state of NV centers using an external gate electrode, an important step forward for realizing spintronics applications. – Sarma Kancharla


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