Sensing of single nuclear spins in random thermal motion with proximate nitrogen-vacancy centers

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2015-08-10 - 2016-03-08

M. Bruderer, P. Fernández-Acebal, R. Aurich, and M. B. Plenio


Phys. Rev. B 93, 115116

Nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond have emerged as valuable tools for sensing and polarizing spins. Motivated by potential applications in chemistry, biology, and medicine, we show that NV-based sensors are capable of detecting single spin targets even if they undergo diffusive motion in an ambient thermal environment. Focusing on experimentally relevant diffusion regimes, we derive an effective model for the NV-target interaction, where parameters entering the model are obtained from numerical simulations of the target motion. The practicality of our approach is demonstrated by analyzing two realistic experimental scenarios: (i) time-resolved sensing of a fluorine nuclear spin bound to an N-heterocyclic carbene-ruthenium (NHC-Ru) catalyst that is immobilized on the diamond surface and (ii) detection of an electron spin label by an NV center in a nanodiamond, both attached to a vibrating chemokine receptor in thermal motion. We find in particular that the detachment of a fluorine target from the NHC-Ru carrier molecule can be monitored with a time resolution of a few seconds.