Professor Ania Jayich Develops New Sensor Technology

May 02, 2016

If using a single atom to capture high-resolution images of nanoscale material sounds like science fiction, think again.

That’s exactly what the Quantum Sensing and Imaging Group at UC Santa Barbara has achieved. Members of physicist Ania Jayich’s lab worked for two years to develop a radically new sensor technology capable of nanometer-scale spatial resolution and exquisite sensitivity. Their findings appear in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

“This is the first tool of its kind,” said Jayich, UCSB’s Bruker Endowed Chair in Science and Engineering and associate director of the campus’s Materials Research Lab. “It operates from room temperature down to low temperatures where a lot of interesting physics happens. When thermal energy is low enough, the effects of electron interactions, for instance, become observable, leading to new phases of matter. And we can now probe these with unprecedented spatial resolution.”

Under the microscope, the unique single-spin quantum sensor resembles a toothbrush. Each “bristle” contains a single, solid nanofabricated diamond crystal with a special defect, a nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center, located at the tip. Two adjacent atoms are missing in the diamond’s carbon lattice, and one space has been filled with a nitrogen atom, allowing for the sensing of specific material properties, particularly magnetism. These sensors were manufactured in the clean room of UCSB’s Nanofabrication Facility.


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