The complex environment of solid-state quantum bits is generally believed to pose a difficult challenge for solid state realizations of quantum information science. Close study of single electronic spins associated with the nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center in diamond has shown how a complex environment — in this case a spin-bath formed by carbon-13 isotopic impurities — may be understood and even controlled. Specifically, we show that optical and microwave excitation of the NV center can be used to perform robust initialization, manipulation, and measurement of the two-qubit register formed by the electronic spin and its nearest-neighbor carbon-13 nuclear spin. These few-qubit registers may be used as a basis for scalable quantum information systems provided that one can identify a means to connect different registers. For an optically active system such as the NV center, photons provide a natural medium for inter-register communication, and we discuss initial experiments studying the possibility of quantum optical interconnects. Such an optically-connected few-qubit register offers a flexible hardware for both quantum computation and long-distance quantum communication; in particular, it may allow realization of a solid-state quantum repeater.
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