(SpaceDaily) David Graves, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) associate laboratory director for low temperature plasma surface interactions, is leading the collaboration to develop a new quantum sensor, under a highly competitive three-year, $5.2-million award from the DOE. Graves will work closely with co-designers Nathalie de Leon of Princeton University, a renowned expert in quantum hardware, and physicist Alastair Stacey of Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).
The award brings PPPL, traditionally a fusion-focused research lab, fully into the often-bizarre world of quantum physics. “This is the start of a whole new activity for the laboratory that will make us leaders in the use of plasma to make diamond to improve sensors,” said Steve Cowley, PPPL director. “It is also a marvelous example of how the laboratory, under David Graves’s leadership, is collaborating with Princeton University and Professor Nathalie de Leon and physicist Alastair Stacey in Melbourne.”
Creation of diamond sensors calls for the synthesis of designer diamond material that begins with a diamond seed that is built up through the gradual deposition of plasma-enhanced vapor. The trick is to replace carbon atoms of the growing material with nitrogen atoms and vacant spaces – a combination referred to as NV centers in diamonds. This combination creates the sensor and is commonly called a color center since it glows red when a light shines on it.
“Having a tight collaboration between diamond synthesis, plasma modeling, and quantum measurement will enable a new frontier in quantum sensors,” de Leon said. “These research areas are typically completely separate research communities, and I am excited about what we can achieve together.”
Graves notes the significance of the project for PPPL. “This is a big step,” he said. “It’s our first competitive [quantum] proposal. It’s a pretty big deal for PPPL to get a grant in an area like this that is so different from our traditional research, and I think symbolically it’s important.”