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Stanford researchers shine light on the defects responsible for messy behavior in quantum materials

Digital illustration of a light emitting from a central point, with binary number combinations coming from that central point
Image credit: Getty Images
Feb 24 2020
Fellow, Research, Stanford, Students

In a future built on quantum technologies, planes and spaceships could be fueled by the momentum of light. Quantum computers will crunch through complex problems spanning chemistry to cryptography with greater speed and energy efficiency than existing processors. But before this future can come to pass, we need bright, on-demand, predictable sources of quantum light.

Toward this end, a team of Stanford University material scientists, physicists and engineers, in collaboration with labs at Harvard University and the University of Technology Sydney, have been investigating hexagonal boron nitride, a material that can emit bright light as a single photon – a quantum unit of light – at a time. And it can do this at room temperature, making it easier to use compared to alternative quantum sources.

Unfortunately, hexagonal boron nitride has a significant downside: It emits light in a rainbow of different hues. “While this emission is beautiful, the color currently can’t be controlled,” said Fariah Hayee, the lead author and a graduate student in the lab of Jennifer Dionne, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. “We wanted to know the source of the multi-color emission, with the ultimate goal of gaining control over emission.”

Lead author Fariah Hayee is a 2018 DARE Fellow. Co-author Jingyuan Linda Zhang is a 2013 Gabilan Stanford Graduate Fellow.

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