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Submillihertz magnetic spectroscopy performed with a nanoscale quantum sensor

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Science  26 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6340, pp. 832-837
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5532

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Enhancing quantum sensing

The quantum properties of the nitrogen vacancy (NV) defect in diamond can be used as an atomic compass needle that is sensitive to tiny variations in magnetic field. Schmitt et al. and Boss et al. successfully enhanced this sensitivity by several orders of magnitude (see the Perspective by Jordan). They applied a sequence of pulses to the NV center, the timing of which was set by and compared with a highly stable oscillator. This allowed them to measure the frequency of an oscillating magnetic field (megahertz bandwidth) with submillihertz resolution. Such enhanced precision measurement could be applied, for example, to improve nuclear magnetic resonance-based imaging protocols of single molecules.

Science, this issue p. 832, p. 837; see also p. 802

Abstract

Precise timekeeping is critical to metrology, forming the basis by which standards of time, length, and fundamental constants are determined. Stable clocks are particularly valuable in spectroscopy because they define the ultimate frequency precision that can be reached. In quantum metrology, the qubit coherence time defines the clock stability, from which the spectral linewidth and frequency precision are determined. We demonstrate a quantum sensing protocol in which the spectral precision goes beyond the sensor coherence time and is limited by the stability of a classical clock. Using this technique, we observed a precision in frequency estimation scaling in time T as T–3/2 for classical oscillating fields. The narrow linewidth magnetometer based on single spins in diamond is used to sense nanoscale magnetic fields with an intrinsic frequency resolution of 607 microhertz, which is eight orders of magnitude narrower than the qubit coherence time.

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