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  1. Color centers in hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) are presently attracting broad interest as a novel platform for nanoscale sensing and quantum information processing. Unfortunately, their atomic structures remain largely elusive and only a small percentage of the emitters studied thus far have the properties required to serve as optically addressable spin qubits. Here, we use confocal fluorescence microscopy at variable temperatures to study a new class of point defects produced via cerium ion implantation in thin hBN flakes. We find that, to a significant fraction, emitters show bright room-temperature emission, and good optical stability suggesting the formation of Ce-based point defects. Using density functional theory (DFT) we calculate the emission properties of candidate emitters, and single out the CeVBcenter—formed by an interlayer Ce atom adjacent to a boron vacancy—as one possible microscopic model. Our results suggest an intriguing route to defect engineering that simultaneously exploits the singular properties of rare-earth ions and the versatility of two-dimensional material hosts.

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  3. Abstract

    A key advantage of utilizing van‐der‐Waals (vdW) materials as defect‐hosting platforms for quantum applications is the controllable proximity of the defect to the surface or the substrate allowing for improved light extraction, enhanced coupling with photonic elements, or more sensitive metrology. However, this aspect results in a significant challenge for defect identification and characterization, as the defect's properties depend on the the atomic environment. This study explores how the environment can influence the properties of carbon impurity centers in hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). It compares the optical and electronic properties of such defects between bulk‐like and few‐layer films, showing alteration of the zero‐phonon line energies and their phonon sidebands, and enhancements of inhomogeneous broadenings. To disentangle the mechanisms responsible for these changes, including the atomic structure, electronic wavefunctions, and dielectric screening, it combines ab initio calculations with a quantum‐embedding approach. By studying various carbon‐based defects embedded in monolayer and bulk hBN, it demonstrates that the dominant effect of the change in the environment is the screening of density–density Coulomb interactions between the defect orbitals. The comparative analysis of experimental and theoretical findings paves the way for improved identification of defects in low‐dimensional materials and the development of atomic scale sensors for dielectric environments.

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