The nitrogen-vacancy defect centre in diamond1,2,3,4 has potential applications in nanoscale electric and magnetic-field sensing2,3,4,5,6, single-photon microscopy7,8, quantum information processing9 and bioimaging10. These applications rely on the ability to position a single nitrogen-vacancy centre within a few nanometres of a sample, and then scan it across the sample surface, while preserving the centre's spin coherence and readout fidelity. However, existing scanning techniques, which use a single diamond nanocrystal grafted onto the tip of a scanning probe microscope2,8,11,12, suffer from short spin coherence times due to poor crystal quality, and from inefficient far-field collection of the fluorescence from the nitrogen-vacancy centre. Here, we demonstrate a robust method for scanning a single nitrogen-vacancy centre within tens of nanometres from a sample surface that addresses both of these concerns. This is achieved by positioning a single nitrogen-vacancy centre at the end of a high-purity diamond nanopillar, which we use as the tip of an atomic force microscope. Our approach ensures long nitrogen-vacancy spin coherence times (∼75 µs), enhanced nitrogen-vacancy collection efficiencies due to waveguiding, and mechanical robustness of the device (several weeks of scanning time). We are able to image magnetic domains with widths of 25 nm, and demonstrate a magnetic field sensitivity of 56 nT Hz–1/2 at a frequency of 33 kHz, which is unprecedented for scanning nitrogen-vacancy centres.
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The authors thank B.D. Terris and N. Supper from Hitachi GST for providing the magnetic recording samples. P.M. acknowledges support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and S.H. thanks the Kwanjeong Scholarship Foundation for funding. M.S.G. is supported by fellowships from the Department of Defense (NDSEG programme) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). This work was supported by NIST and DARPA QuEST and QuASAR programmes and in part was performed at the Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS), a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), which is supported by the NSF (under award no. ECS–0335765). CNS is part of Harvard University.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Maletinsky, P., Hong, S., Grinolds, M. et al. A robust scanning diamond sensor for nanoscale imaging with single nitrogen-vacancy centres. Nature Nanotech 7, 320–324 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2012.50
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