Color centers in diamond are widely explored for applications in quantum sensing, computing, and networking. Their optical, spin, and charge properties have extensively been studied, while their interactions with itinerant carriers are relatively unexplored. Here, we show that NV centers situated 10 ± 5 nm of the diamond surface can be converted to the neutral charge state via hole capture. By measuring the hole capture rate, we extract the capture cross section, which is suppressed by proximity to the diamond surface. The distance dependence is consistent with a carrier diffusion model, indicating that the itinerant carrier lifetime can be long, even at the diamond surface. Measuring dynamics of near-surface NV centers offers a tool for characterizing the diamond surface and investigating charge transport in diamond devices.

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