Next-generation dark matter (DM) detectors searching for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) will be sensitive to coherent scattering from solar neutrinos, demanding an efficient background-signal discrimination tool. Directional detectors improve sensitivity to WIMP DM despite the irreducible neutrino background. Wide-bandgap semiconductors offer a path to directional detection in a high-density target material. A detector of this type operates in a hybrid mode. The WIMP or neutrino-induced nuclear recoil is detected using real-time charge, phonon, or photon collection. The directional signal, however, is imprinted as a durable sub-micron damage track in the lattice structure. This directional signal can be read out by a variety of atomic physics techniques, from point defect quantum sensing to x-ray microscopy. In this Review, we present the detector principle as well as the status of the experimental techniques required for directional readout of nuclear recoil tracks. Specifically, we focus on diamond as a target material; it is both a leading platform for emerging quantum technologies and a promising component of next-generation semiconductor electronics. Based on the development and demonstration of directional readout in diamond over the next decade, a future WIMP detector will leverage or motivate advances in multiple disciplines toward precision dark matter and neutrino physics.

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