Diamond based single molecule magnetic resonance spectroscopy

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J.-M. Cai, F. Jelezko, M. B. Plenio, A. Retzker



The detection of a nuclear spin in an individual molecule represents a key challenge in physics and biology whose solution has been pursued for many years. The small magnetic moment of a single nucleus and the unavoidable environmental noise present the key obstacles for its realization. Here, we theoretically demonstrate that a single nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center in diamond can be used to construct a nano-scale single molecule spectrometer that is capable of detecting the position and spin state of a single nucleus and can determine the distance and alignment of a nuclear or electron spin pair. In combination with organic spin labels, this device will find applications in single molecule spectroscopy in chemistry and biology, such as in determining protein structure or monitoring macromolecular motions and can thus provide a tool to help unravelling the microscopic mechanisms underlying bio-molecular function.