In a new paper in the journal Nano Letter, scientists at the University of Oregon (UO) show how they used white graphene to create artificial atoms that remain stable at room temperature, opening up a new avenue to explore in the development of secure quantum communications and optical quantum computing.

"The big breakthrough is that we've discovered a simple, scalable way to nanofabricate artificial atoms onto a microchip, and that the artificial atoms work in air and at room temperature," said University of Oregon physicist Benjamin Alemán, co-author of the paper and member of UO's Materials Science Institute.

Joshua Ziegler, a doctoral student researcher in Alemán’s lab and the first author on the new paper, took a two-dimensional sheet of hexagonal boron nitride, also known as white graphene because of its color and its graphene-like thickness, and drilled holes into it that were 500 nanometers wide and only four nanometers deep using focused ion beams.

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