Physical Review Letters

Optical Polarization of Nuclear Spins in Silicon Carbide

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We demonstrate optically pumped dynamic nuclear polarization of Si29 nuclear spins that are strongly coupled to paramagnetic color centers in 4H- and 6H-SiC. The 99%±1% degree of polarization that we observe at room temperature corresponds to an effective nuclear temperature of 5μK. By combining ab initio theory with the experimental identification of the color centers' optically excited states, we quantitatively model how the polarization derives from hyperfine-mediated level anticrossings. These results lay a foundation for SiC-based quantum memories, nuclear gyroscopes, and hyperpolarized probes for magnetic resonance imaging.