Nitrogen–vacancy (NV) centers in diamond are generally recognized as highly promising as indefinitely stable highly efficient single-photon sources. We report an experimental quantification of the brightness, radiative decay rate, nonradiative decay rate and quantum efficiency of single NV centers in diamond nanocrystals. Our experiments show that the commonly observed large spread in fluorescence decay rates of NV centers in nanodiamond is inconsistent with the common explanation of large nanophotonic mode-density variations in the ultra-small high-index crystals at near-unity quantum efficiency. We report that NV centers in 25nm nanocrystals are essentially insensitive to local density of optical states (LDOS) variations that we induce at a dielectric interface by using liquids to vary the refractive index, and propose that quantum efficiencies in such nanocrystals are widely distributed between 0 and 20%. For single NV centers in larger 100nm nanocrystals, we show that decay rate changes can be reversibly induced by nanomechanically approaching a mirror to change the LDOS. Using this scanning mirror method, for the first time we report calibrated quantum efficiencies of NV centers, and show that different but nominally identical nanocrystals have widely distributed quantum efficiencies between 10 and 90%. Our measurements imply that nanocrystals that are to be assembled into hybrid photonic structures for cavity QED should first be individually screened to assess fluorescence properties in detail.

E. Verhagen (Ewold)
New J. Phys.
Resonant Nanophotonics

Mohtashami, A., & Koenderink, F. (2013). Suitability of nanodiamond nitrogen-vacancy centers for spontaneous emission control experiments. New J. Phys., 15(Article number: 43017), 1–24. doi:10.1088/1367-2630/15/4/043017