Liquid-activated quantum emission from pristine hexagonal boron nitride for nanofluidic sensing

Nathan Ronceray, Yi You, Evgenii Glushkov, Martina Lihter, Benjamin Rehl, Tzu Heng Chen, Gwang Hyeon Nam, Fanny Borza, Kenji Watanabe, Takashi Taniguchi, Sylvie Roke, Ashok Keerthi, Jean Comtet, Boya Radha, Aleksandra Radenovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liquids confined down to the atomic scale can show radically new properties. However, only indirect and ensemble measurements operate in such extreme confinement, calling for novel optical approaches that enable direct imaging at the molecular level. Here we harness fluorescence originating from single-photon emitters at the surface of hexagonal boron nitride for molecular imaging and sensing in nanometrically confined liquids. The emission originates from the chemisorption of organic solvent molecules onto native surface defects, revealing single-molecule dynamics at the interface through the spatially correlated activation of neighbouring defects. Emitter spectra further offer a direct readout of the local dielectric properties, unveiling increasing dielectric order under nanometre-scale confinement. Liquid-activated native hexagonal boron nitride defects bridge the gap between solid-state nanophotonics and nanofluidics, opening new avenues for nanoscale sensing and optofluidics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1242
Number of pages7
JournalNature Materials
Issue number10
Early online date31 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


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