Coherent spin manipulation without magnetic fields in strained semiconductors

Nature. 2004 Jan 1;427(6969):50-3. doi: 10.1038/nature02202.


A consequence of relativity is that in the presence of an electric field, the spin and momentum states of an electron can be coupled; this is known as spin-orbit coupling. Such an interaction opens a pathway to the manipulation of electron spins within non-magnetic semiconductors, in the absence of applied magnetic fields. This interaction has implications for spin-based quantum information processing and spintronics, forming the basis of various device proposals. For example, the concept of spin field-effect transistors is based on spin precession due to the spin-orbit coupling. Most studies, however, focus on non-spin-selective electrical measurements in quantum structures. Here we report the direct measurement of coherent electron spin precession in zero magnetic field as the electrons drift in response to an applied electric field. We use ultrafast optical techniques to spatiotemporally resolve spin dynamics in strained gallium arsenide and indium gallium arsenide epitaxial layers. Unexpectedly, we observe spin splitting in these simple structures arising from strain in the semiconductor films. The observed effect provides a flexible approach for enabling electrical control over electron spins using strain engineering. Moreover, we exploit this strain-induced field to electrically drive spin resonance with Rabi frequencies of up to approximately 30 MHz.