Not so defective, after all: Demystifying advanced quantum materials

Sometimes, flaws are what makes a thing special.

That’s the case for a type of material called optical quantum emitters, which send out light in an exceptionally precise manner, one photon at a time, often due to tiny imperfections in a crystal’s structure.

The ability to emit light one photon at a time could allow optical quantum emitters to become the backbones of ultrafast computers, super high-resolution sensors and uncrackable long-range secure communication technologies.

Recently, buzz has been building about a newly discovered variety of quantum emitters consisting of two-dimensional materials (think flat sheets only as thick as a single molecule, similar to graphene). But there’s a hitch: No one truly understands the exact natures of the tiny flaws, called defects, that cause these two-di materials to become optical quantum emitters. And that’s been a major obstacle in obtaining these potentially useful materials.

“If we can understand the nature of the defects, the hope is to be able to control them,” says Jason Kawasaki, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read More