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Researchers Aim to Transfer Highly Sensitive Quantum Magnetometers from Lab to Industry

Fraunhofer IAF has built a quantum magnetometer formed on a diamond. Quantum magnetometers can detect magnetic fields having a spatial resolution measuring from a few nanometers to single electron and nuclear spins.

Researchers Aim to Transfer Highly Sensitive Quantum Magnetometers from Lab to Industry.

Image Credit: Ezume Images

Owing to the physical material characteristics, diamond quantum magnetometers work at room temperature, which is suitable for industrial applications. At the 2022 LASER World of PHOTONICS, Fraunhofer IAF is going to showcase two encouraging projects.

Currently, magnetometers are only appropriate for industrial use to a minimal extent, as their operation is complicated and in certain cases, only possible with high-level cooling. Moreover, their spatial resolution is very low or sensitive for several applications.

Therefore, Fraunhofer scientists from six institutes have come together to participate in the Quantum Magnetometry project (QMag for short) to create sensors that can image minute magnetic fields with unparalleled sensitivity, spatial resolution and at room temperature.

The Fraunhofer lighthouse project’s goal is to shift quantum magnetometry from the university research setting to real-world industrial applications: By 2024, the project collaborators hope to create quantum magnetometers for industrial purposes such as chemical analysis, nanoelectronics and materials testing.

Fraunhofer Research Consortium

QMag is set up with approximately 10 million euros, shared in equal parts by the federal state of Baden-Württemberg and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The core team of the QMag consortium includes the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF, the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM.

Three other Fraunhofer institutes contribute their technological and scientific capabilities: The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB, the Fraunhofer Institute for Microengineering and Microsystems IMM and the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics CAP in Glasgow.

Great Progress in Material Development

In the QMag project, two systems based on the same physical measurement principles and techniques are being tested, but they are aimed at various applications: On the one hand, the scientists are creating an imaging scanning probe magnetometer formed on NV centers in diamond for exact measurements of nanoelectronic circuits.

On the other hand, they are creating measurement systems based on ultra-sensitive optically pumped magnetometers (OPMs) for applications in process analytics and materials testing.

With regard to the scanning probe magnetometers, we were able to make great progress in the development and optimization of diamond sensor tips in the first half of the project.

Dr. Ralf Ostendorf, QMag Project Coordinator, Fraunhofer IAF

This involves both the growth of superior quality diamonds and the targeted creation and placement of NV centers in the diamond tips. Furthermore, the scientists have built microlenses as well as produced magnetic nanoparticles that are added to the diamond tips to additionally enhance them in terms of efficiency and accuracy.

Measuring the Smallest Magnetic Fields with Diamond and Laser

The second research project launched by Fraunhofer IAF in the domain of quantum magnetometry looks at applications in medical diagnostics:

In the project titled “NV-doped CVD diamond for ultra-sensitive laser threshold magnetometry“ (DiLaMag for short), a team is investigating the creation of a very sensitive sensor that can, for instance, quantify the weak magnetic fields of the brain and heart activities of the human body. This could be employed to identify diseases at the first stage.

Our goal is to develop an extremely sensitive magnetic field sensor that works at room temperature as well as in existing background fields and is thus practicable for clinical implementation.

Dr. Jan Jeske, Researcher and Project Leader of DiLaMag, Fraunhofer IAF


At the 2022 LASER World of PHOTONICS trade fair, for the first time, there will be a space devoted to showcasing quantum technologies: In the World of Quantum (Hall A4), the participating Fraunhofer institutes IPM, IAF, and IWM will display their project QMag. The cooperative exhibit will present materials testing with OPMs.

Fraunhofer IAF will also showcase its research efforts in the domain of diamond growth as well as NV-doped diamond and exhibit the simple principle of measurement with NV diamonds.

The 2022 LASER World of PHOTONICS is scheduled to take place in the city of Munich between April 26th and 29th.

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