Ultrathin Eu- and Er-Doped Y2O3 Films with Optimized Optical Properties for Quantum Technologies

Collaborative paper published in J. Phys. Chem. C

Abstract:

Atomic layer deposited (ALD) Y2O3 thin films have been thoroughly investigated for optical or electronic applications. The coherent spectroscopy of lanthanide ions doped into this material has also recently attracted increasing interest in the field of quantum technologies for which they are considered promising candidates in quantum memories or as spin–photon interfaces. However, these most demanding applications require a deep control over the local positioning of the ions and their close environment in the crystalline matrix. This study focuses on the structural as well as optical properties of Eu3+ and Er3+ dopants in Y2O3 using photoluminescence (PL), luminescence decay times, and inhomogeneous line width (Γinh) measurements within this particular context. While as-grown ALD films do not provide an ideal host for the emitters, we demonstrate that by optimizing the deposition conditions and using appropriate annealing post treatments narrow inhomogeneous lines can be obtained for the 7F0 ↔ 5D0 transition of Eu3+ even for nanoscale films. Furthermore, about 1.5 ms lifetime has been measured for the infrared telecom transition of Er in ultrathin films (<10 nm), which is an order of magnitude higher than in nanoparticles of the same size. These results validate optimized rare-earth-doped ALD Y2O3 films as a suitable platform for photonics applications where few-nanometer-thick films with well-localized emitters are mandatory. This approach provides the first building blocks toward the development of more complex devices for quantum sensing or hybrid structures coupled with other systems such as two-dimensional materials.

Graphene gives a tremendous boost to future terahertz cameras

Collaborative paper published in Nano Letters

A study in Nano Letters reports on the development of a graphene-enabled detector for terahertz light that is faster and more sensitive than existing room-temperature technologies.

Detecting terahertz (THz) light is extremely useful for two main reasons. Firstly, THz technology is becoming a key element in applications regarding security (such as airport scanners), wireless data communication, and quality control, to mention just a few. However, current THz detectors have shown strong limitations in terms of simultaneously meeting the requirements for sensitivity, speed, spectral range, being able to operate at room temperature, etc. Secondly, it is a very safe type of radiation due to its low-energy photons, with more than a hundred times less energy than that of photons in the visible light range. 

Many graphene-based applications are expected to emerge from its use as material for detecting light. Graphene has the particularity of not having a bandgap, as compared to standard materials used for photodetection, such as silicon. The bandgap in silicon causes incident light with wavelengths longer than one micron to not be absorbed and thus not detected. In contrast, for graphene, even terahertz light with a wavelength of hundreds of microns can be absorbed and detected. Whereas THz detectors based on graphene have shown promising results so far, none of the detectors so far could beat commercially available detectors in terms of speed and sensitivity. 

In a recent study, ICFO researchers Sebastián Castilla and Dr. Bernat Terrés, led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Frank Koppens and former ICFO scientist Dr. Klaas-Jan Tielrooij (now Junior Group Leader at ICN2), in collaboration with scientists from CIC NanoGUNE, NEST (CNR), Nanjing University, Donostia International Physics Center, University of Ioannina and the National Institute for Material Sciences, have been able to overcome these challenges. They have developed a novel graphene-enabled photodetector that operates at room temperature, and is highly sensitive, very fast, has a wide dynamic range and covers a broad range of THz frequencies.  

In their experiment, the scientists were able to optimize the photoresponse mechanism of a THz photodetector using the following approach. They integrated a dipole antenna into the detector to concentrate the incident THz light around the antenna gap region. By fabricating a very small (100 nm, about one thousand times smaller than the thickness of a hair) antenna gap, they were able to obtain a great intensity concentration of THz incident light in the photoactive region of the graphene channel. They observed that the light absorbed by the graphene creates hot carriers at a pn-junction in graphene; subsequently, the unequal Seebeck coefficients in the p- and n-regions produce a local voltage and a current through the device generating a very large photoresponse and, thus, leading to a very high sensitivity, high speed response detector, with a wide dynamic range and a broad spectral coverage.  

The results of this study open a pathway towards the development a fully digital low-cost camera system. This could be as cheap as the camera inside the smartphone, since such a detector has proven to have a very low power consumption and is fully compatible with CMOS technology.  

Efficient THz harmonic generation from graphene

Multiple optical harmonic generation—the multiplication of photon energy as a result of nonlinear interaction between light and matter—is a key technology in modern electronics and optoelectronics, because it allows the conversion of optical or electronic signals into signals with much higher frequency, and the generation of frequency combs. Owing to the unique electronic band structure of graphene, which features massless Dirac fermions, it has been repeatedly predicted that optical harmonic generation in graphene should be particularly efficient at the technologically important terahertz frequencies. However, these predictions have yet to be confirmed experimentally under technologically relevant operation conditions. Here we report the generation of terahertz harmonics up to the seventh order in single-layer graphene at room temperature and under ambient conditions, driven by terahertz fields of only tens of kilovolts per centimetre, and with field conversion efficiencies in excess of 10−3, 10−4 and 10−5 for the third, fifth and seventh terahertz harmonics, respectively. These conversion efficiencies are remarkably high, given that the electromagnetic interaction occurs in a single atomic layer. The key to such extremely efficient generation of terahertz high harmonics in graphene is the collective thermal response of its background Dirac electrons to the driving terahertz fields. The terahertz harmonics, generated via hot Dirac fermion dynamics, were observed directly in the time domain as electromagnetic field oscillations at these newly synthesized higher frequencies. The effective nonlinear optical coefficients of graphene for the third, fifth and seventh harmonics exceed the respective nonlinear coefficients of typical solids by 7–18 orders of magnitude. Our results provide a direct pathway to highly efficient terahertz frequency synthesis using the present generation of graphene electronics, which operate at much lower fundamental frequencies of only a few hundreds of gigahertz.

Launching the Ultrafast Dynamics in Nanoscale Systems group at ICN2

Dr. Klaas-Jan Tielrooij joins the ICN2

Klaas-Jan Tielrooij combines the study of fundamental physics with applied research, exploring ultrafast dynamics in nanoscale systems and their application in the fields of photodetection, quantum technologies and telecommunications. Building on close collaborations via inter-institutional projects within BIST, he will join the ICN2 in October as junior group leader, complete with his recently awarded ERC Starting Grant.