The spin of a confined electron, when oriented originally in some direction, will lose memory of that orientation after some time. Physical mechanisms leading to this relaxation of spin memory typically involve either coupling of the electron spin to its orbital motion or to nuclear spins 1-7. Relaxation of confined electron spin has been previously measured only for Zeeman or exchange split spin states, where spin-orbit effects dominate relaxation8-10; spin flips due to nuclei have been observed in optical spectroscopy studies11. Using an isolated GaAs double quantum dot defined by electrostatic gates and direct time domain measurements, we investigate in detail spin relaxation for arbitrary splitting of spin states. Here we show that electron spin flips are dominated by nuclear interactions and are slowed by several orders of magnitude when a magnetic field of a few millitesla is applied. These results have significant implications for spin-based information processing12.
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