The negatively-charged nitrogen-vacancy (NV–) center in diamond is the focus of widespread attention for applications ranging from quantum information processing to nanoscale metrology. Although most work so far has focused on the NV– optical and spin properties, control of the charge state promises complementary opportunities. One intriguing possibility is the long-term storage of information, a notion we hereby introduce using NV rich, type-1b diamond. As a proof of principle, we use multi-color optical microscopy to read, write, and reset arbitrary data sets with 2-D binary bit density comparable to present digital-video-disk (DVD) technology. Leveraging on the singular dynamics of NV– ionization, we encode information on different planes of the diamond crystal with no cross talk, hence extending the storage capacity to three dimensions. Further, we correlate the center’s charge state and nuclear spin polarization of the nitrogen host, and show that the latter is robust to a cycle of NV– ionization and recharge. In combination with super-resolution microscopy techniques, these observations provide a route towards sub-diffraction NV charge control, a regime where the storage capacity could exceed present technologies.
The nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centre in diamond is emerging as a promising platform for solid-state quantum information processing and nanoscale metrology. Of interest in these applications is the manipulation of the NV charge, which can be attained by optical excitation. Here we use two-color optical microscopy to investigate the dynamics of NV photo-ionization, charge diffusion, and trapping in type-1b diamond. We combine fixed-point laser excitation and scanning fluorescence imaging to locally alter the concentration of negatively charged NVs, and to subsequently probe the corresponding redistribution of charge. We uncover the formation of spatial patterns of trapped charge, which we qualitatively reproduce via a model of the interplay between photo-excited carriers and atomic defects. Further, by using the NV as a probe, we map the relative fraction of positively charged nitrogen upon localized optical excitation. These observations may prove important to transporting quantum information between NVs or to developing three-dimensional, charge-based memories.