Quantum Sensors in Diamond Anvils Measure Performance Under Extreme Conditions

To develop new, high-performance optical and electronic materials, scientists need to measure how material properties such as magnetism and strength change under extreme conditions. Diamond anvil cells have made it possible for scientists to safely re-create these conditions in the lab, but most conventional sensors cannot be used to measure the experimental results, because they cannot withstand the crushing forces inside a diamond anvil cell.

A team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) took advantage of the intrinsic sensing properties found in nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers — atomic defects found in a diamond’s crystal structure — to develop a tool that can be used to perform experiments that are inaccessible to conventional sensors.

In one experiment, when methanol/ethanol mixture underwent a transition from a liquid to a solid, the diamond surface turned from a smooth bowl to a jagged, textured surface. Mechanical simulations performed by professor Valery Levitas of Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory confirmed the result. 

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