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High-dynamic-range magnetometry with a single electronic spin in diamond

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Magnetic sensors capable of detecting nanoscale volumes of spins allow for non-invasive, element-specific probing1,2,3. The error in such measurements is usually reduced by increasing the measurement time, and noise averaging the signal4,5. However, achieving the best precision requires restricting the maximum possible field strength to much less than the spectral linewidth of the sensor. Quantum entanglement and squeezing can then be used to improve precision (although they are difficult to implement in solid-state environments). When the field strength is comparable to or greater than the spectral linewidth, an undesirable trade-off between field strength and signal precision occurs1. Here, we implement novel phase estimation algorithms6,7,8 on a single electronic spin associated with the nitrogen-vacancy defect centre in diamond to achieve an 8.5-fold improvement in the ratio of the maximum field strength to precision, for field magnitudes that are large (0.3 mT) compared to the spectral linewidth of the sensor (4.5 µT). The field uncertainty in our approach scales as 1/T0.88, compared to 1/T0.5 in the standard measurement approach, where T is the measurement time. Quantum phase estimation algorithms have also recently been implemented using a single nuclear spin in a nitrogen-vacancy centre9. Besides their direct impact on applications in magnetic sensing and imaging at the nanoscale, these results may prove useful in improving a variety of high-precision spectroscopy techniques.

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Figure 1: Experimental scheme.
Figure 2: Magnetic sensing with Ramsey fringes.
Figure 3: Non-adaptive phase estimation algorithms results.
Figure 4: Comparison of sensitivity scaling with resources.

Change history

  • 13 January 2012

    In the version of this Letter originally published online, in the first paragraph of the Methods section, the definition of um was incorrect. This error has been corrected in all versions of the Letter.


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The authors would especially like to thank L. Childress for her helpful comments regarding the manuscript. The authors also acknowledge J. Taylor, C. Ryan, J. S. Hodges, G. Waldherr, F. Jelezko and M. D. Lukin for stimulating discussions. This work was supported by an NSF CAREER award (DMR-0847195), NSF PHY-100534, DOE Early Career (DE-SC 0006638) and the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship.

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N.M. and G.D. conceived and designed the experiments, and built the experimental set-up. N.M. and U.M. carried out the measurements. All authors contributed to analysis of the data, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript. G.D. wrote the paper with contributions from all authors.

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Correspondence to M. V. Gurudev Dutt.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Nusran, N., Momeen, M. & Dutt, M. High-dynamic-range magnetometry with a single electronic spin in diamond. Nature Nanotech 7, 109–113 (2012).

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