Initialization and read-out of intrinsic spin defects in a van der Waals crystal at room temperature




Optically addressable spins in wide-bandgap semiconductors are a promising platform for exploring quantum phenomena. While colour centres in three-dimensional crystals such as diamond and silicon carbide were studied in detail, they were not observed experimentally in two-dimensional (2D) materials. Here, we report spin-dependent processes in the 2D material hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). We identify fluorescence lines associated with a particular defect, the negatively charged boron vacancy (V−B), showing a triplet (S = 1) ground state and zero-field splitting of ~3.5 GHz. We establish that this centre exhibits optically detected magnetic resonance at room temperature and demonstrate its spin polarization under optical pumping, which leads to optically induced population inversion of the spin ground state—a prerequisite for coherent spin-manipulation schemes. Our results constitute a step forward in establishing 2D hBN as a prime platform for scalable quantum technologies, with potential for spin-based quantum information and sensing applications.

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