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Development of Nitrogen Vacancy Diamond Centers for Nanoscale Sensing of Physical and Biological Materials


The NV defect center in diamond forms a pseudo-atomic quantum system with discreet optically excitable transitions between ground and excited states in the gap between valence and conduction bands, making the NV center a deep-level defect center in diamond. For the negatively charged NV center (NV-), both the ground and excited states are spin triplets (S=1) and coupling between optical and spin states provides unique opportunities for optical detection of magnetic resonance (ODMR) and quantum metrology under ambient conditions. As an atomically sized point defect that is stable in single nanodiamonds as small as a few nanometers, the NV center enables spin based imaging of temperature, electric fields, magnetic fields and mechanical strain with nanoscale spatial resolution. Made of carbon, nanodiamonds are also ideal nanoparticles for use in biological systems, exhibiting extremely low cytotoxicity, no photo bleaching and exceptional contrast in transmission electron and light microscopy. With the ability to act as both a passive, non perturbing sensor (e.g. a diamagnetic material used for sensing magnetic fields) and a connection point for two way, direct coupling of far field optics to NV$^-$ spins and indirectly to the highly localized neighborhood of atoms, electronic states and phonon modes in the local vicinity, NV diamond provides a route to nanoscale field sensing and spin based optical microscopy. These sensors are also stable in nanodiamonds. For nanoparticles, the reduction in particle diameter dramatically enhances the proportion of the material that is surface exposed, enhancing any surface related properties. Nitrogen Vacancy centers in nanodiamonds provide another example of material properties that vary with particle size. In chapter 5, evidence that modulation of nanodiamonds fluorescent emissions by electrical perturbations in their surrouding environment allows transduction of local electrodynamics into a far field optical signal capable of mapping action potentials in cardiomyocytes in presented. The unifying theme for all of the work presented in this dissertation is to enable the use of magnetic resonance signals and interactions for imaging and sensing in previously inaccessible regimes. The specific focus is on methods and techniques to enable nanoscale physical sensing and functional imaging in live tissues, with the ultimate aim to lay the predicate for the combination of both without compromise.

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