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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V049704/1
Title: Quantum simulation using interacting spins in solids
Principal Investigator: Knowles, Dr HS
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 June 2021 Ends: 31 May 2024 Value (£): 464,773
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Condensed Matter Physics Magnetism/Magnetic Phenomena
Materials Characterisation Surfaces & Interfaces
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 Mar 2021 EPSRC Physical Sciences - March 2021 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Non-invasive magnetic imaging at the nanometre scale holds the key to understanding the interactions of organic and inorganic materials on the atomic scale. Sensing of electronic and nuclear spins using magnetic resonance techniques has already transformed structural biology and the study of bulk solid-state materials. This proposal sets out the path and methods to develop and exploit a new type of imaging tool based on single atomic defects in diamond coupled to electronic spins located right at the surface of diamond.

Nitrogen vacancy centres (NVs) in diamond are atomic impurities that can serve as highly localised sensors for magnetic and electric fields, and temperature. The NV electronic spin can be probed through an optical microscope, not requiring direct electrical contacting of the sensing device. The light collected from the impurity contains information about its microscopic quantum state, which will be altered by any change in its environment. This system allows, for instance, the localization of individual electronic spins to single lattice sites and the detection of only a few hundred nuclear spins in one second of integration time. Because it is non-invasive and provides nanometre scale spatial resolution under ambient conditions, this sensor fills an important gap in imaging techniques, providing the resolution and sensitivity to probe structure and dynamics in soft and solid state systems on the nanometre scale. However, its spatial resolution is limited by the instability of the NV centre close to the surface of diamond: if it lies closer than a few nanometres to the diamond surface, its charge state changes and it is no longer able to act as a quantum sensor. This prevents its use for studying nuclear spins in samples of interest with sub-nanometre resolution, where many interesting phenomena occur.

This project aims to develop a new set of magnetic imaging tools based on electronic spin clusters at the surface of diamond with the goal of revealing hitherto concealed physical phenomena at the sub-nanometre scale. We will exploit the dipolar coupling between a single NV centre in diamond and a small cluster of paramagnetic diamond surface spins to provide angstrom-scale proximity to nearby nuclear spins of interest. We will investigate nuclear spins residing in few-molecule volumes of liquids for sub-nm scale sensing and we will probe nuclear spins in the atomically perfect arrays of 2D materials. Such arrays provide a platform for exploring the nanoscale spin thermalisation and localisation behaviour in long-range interacting, two-dimensional, many-body systems. This presents an exciting opportunity to finally resolve questions regarding thermalisation and many-body localisation in two dimensions. It has been predicted that such systems composed of interacting spins will exhibit long-lived quantum states, contrary to the rapid thermalisation that is typically observed when fragile quantum systems are exposed to interactions with an environment. Due to the complexity of such systems, their behaviour cannot be captured by conventional simulations and require the use of so-called quantum simulators: simulators that are in themselves quantum systems and capture the physical interactions and dynamics of interest. Here, we will be in a unique position to explore the phase space of this many-body quantum simulator through spin control and Hamiltonian engineering techniques. Using the diamond surface spins, we aim to reveal spin thermalisation dynamics and many-body effects in complex spin systems.

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