Single-photon emitters: a breakthrough discovery

PhD student, Noah Mendelson, was part of the team that discovered that carbon was the source of photons in ‘white graphene’ – a two-dimensional material that holds promise for use in emerging quantum technologies. One exciting aspect of this work was identifying that the carbon atom has spin, which means it can be manipulated for technological applications.

Prior to this work, we knew that white graphene or hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) was an excellent candidate material for quantum technologies due to its many favourable properties. However, despite extensive investigation, we did not understand the nature of the defects that emitted photons, hindering progress in the field.

The research, led by Professor Igor Aharonovich of the University of Technology Sydney was published in Nature Materials.

Noah explains the discovery from the lab at University of Technology Sydney.

“Confirming these defects carry spin opens up exciting possibilities for future quantum sensing applications, specifically with atomically thin materials.” Professor Aharonovich said.

“hBN single photon emitters display outstanding optical properties, among the best from any solid state material system, however, to make practical use of them we need to understand the nature of the defect and we have finally started to unravel this riddle,” said Mr Mendelson.

The team collaborated with national and international colleagues to solve this major challenge.

“Determining the structure of material defects is an incredibly challenging problem and requires experts from many disciplines. This is not something we could have done within our group alone. Only by teaming up with collaborators from across the world whose expertise lies in different materials growth techniques could we study this issue comprehensively. Working together were we finally able to provide the clarity needed for the research community as a whole,” said Professor Aharonovich.

“This is just the beginning, and we anticipate our findings will accelerate the deployment of hBN quantum emitters for a range of emerging technologies,” concludes Mr Mendelson.

Original Media Release: ‘Devil in the defect detail of quantum emissions unravelled’ by Marea Martlew

About the author/s

Samara Thorn

As the Engagement Manager at TMOS, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems, my role is to help researchers communicate their science and help businesses understand how the new field of meta-optics will transform their industry and where future opportunities for growth li ... more

Igor Aharonovich

Igor Aharonovich received his B.Sc (2005) and M.Sc (2007) in Materials Eng from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology under the supervision of Prof Yeshayahu Lifshitz. He then moved to Australia and pursued his PhD studies at the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Prof Steven ... more

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