Ajoy, A., R. Nazaryan, E. Druga, K. Liu, A. Aguilar, B. Han, M. Gierth, et al. “Room Temperature Optical Nanodiamond Hyperpolarizer: Physics, Design, and Operation.” Review of Scientific Instruments 91, no. 2 (February 1, 2020): 023106.
Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (DNP) is a powerful suite of techniques that deliver multifold signal enhancements in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and MRI. The generated athermal spin states can also be exploited for quantum sensing and as probes for many-body physics. Typical DNP methods require the use of cryogens, large magnetic fields, and high power microwave excitation, which are expensive and unwieldy. Nanodiamond particles, rich in Nitrogen-Vacancy (NV) centers, have attracted attention as alternative DNP agents because they can potentially be optically hyperpolarized at room temperature. Here, unraveling new physics underlying an optical DNP mechanism first introduced by Ajoy et al. [Sci. Adv. 4, eaar5492 (2018)], we report the realization of a miniature “optical nanodiamond hyperpolarizer,” where 13C nuclei within the diamond particles are hyperpolarized via the NV centers. The device occupies a compact footprint and operates at room temperature. Instrumental requirements are very modest: low polarizing fields, low optical and microwave irradiation powers, and convenient frequency ranges that enable miniaturization. We obtain the best reported optical 13C hyperpolarization in diamond particles exceeding 720 times of the thermal 7 T value (0.86% bulk polarization), corresponding to a ten-million-fold gain in averaging time to detect them by NMR. In addition, the hyperpolarization signal can be background-suppressed by over two-orders of magnitude, retained for multiple-minute long periods at low fields, and deployed efficiently even to 13C enriched particles. Besides applications in quantum sensing and bright-contrast MRI imaging, this work opens possibilities for low-cost room-temperature DNP platforms that relay the 13C polarization to liquids in contact with the high surface-area particles.