Single-shot read-out of an individual electron spin in a quantum dot

Nature. 2004 Jul 22;430(6998):431-5. doi: 10.1038/nature02693.


Spin is a fundamental property of all elementary particles. Classically it can be viewed as a tiny magnetic moment, but a measurement of an electron spin along the direction of an external magnetic field can have only two outcomes: parallel or anti-parallel to the field. This discreteness reflects the quantum mechanical nature of spin. Ensembles of many spins have found diverse applications ranging from magnetic resonance imaging to magneto-electronic devices, while individual spins are considered as carriers for quantum information. Read-out of single spin states has been achieved using optical techniques, and is within reach of magnetic resonance force microscopy. However, electrical read-out of single spins has so far remained elusive. Here we demonstrate electrical single-shot measurement of the state of an individual electron spin in a semiconductor quantum dot. We use spin-to-charge conversion of a single electron confined in the dot, and detect the single-electron charge using a quantum point contact; the spin measurement visibility is approximately 65%. Furthermore, we observe very long single-spin energy relaxation times (up to approximately 0.85 ms at a magnetic field of 8 T), which are encouraging for the use of electron spins as carriers of quantum information.