All-optical sensing of a single-molecule electron spin. Academic Article uri icon


  • We demonstrate an all-optical method for magnetic sensing of individual molecules in ambient conditions at room temperature. Our approach is based on shallow nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers near the surface of a diamond crystal, which we use to detect single paramagnetic molecules covalently attached to the diamond surface. The manipulation and readout of the NV centers is all-optical and provides a sensitive probe of the magnetic field fluctuations stemming from the dynamics of the electronic spins of the attached molecules. As a specific example, we demonstrate detection of a single paramagnetic molecule containing a gadolinium (Gd(3+)) ion. We confirm single-molecule resolution using optical fluorescence and atomic force microscopy to colocalize one NV center and one Gd(3+)-containing molecule. Possible applications include nanoscale and in vivo magnetic spectroscopy and imaging of individual molecules.

author list (cited authors)

  • Sushkov, A. O., Chisholm, N., Lovchinsky, I., Kubo, M., Lo, P. K., Bennett, S. D., ... Lukin, M. D

complete list of authors

  • Sushkov, AO||Chisholm, N||Lovchinsky, I||Kubo, M||Lo, PK||Bennett, SD||Hunger, D||Akimov, A||Walsworth, RL||Park, H||Lukin, MD

publication date

  • January 1, 2014 11:11 AM