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Developing an inductive spectrometer for electron paramagnetic resonance detection and imaging at the micron scale using superconducting quantum circuits.

Project description

Superconducting circuits could boost sensitivity of electron paramagnetic resonance

Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) is a powerful method for studying materials that have unpaired electrons. The method identifies and characterises paramagnetic species, usually by measuring microwave emission or absorption by their electron spins. As spins are weakly coupled to microwaves, the method can only be used for sufficiently large and concentrated samples. The EU-funded INDIGO project will borrow techniques from superconducting circuits to considerably increase EPR detection sensitivity, allowing to image new types of micro-sized samples. INDIGO will offer great promise for biology, chemistry and condensed matter physics, for instance allowing to detect EPR signals in single cells, microprotein crystals or from organic semiconductors.


Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) is a powerful spectroscopy method which allows to identify paramagnetic species and quantify their interactions with their environment. Because of the weak spin-microwave coupling, conventional EPR spectroscopy has a low sensitivity which limits its use to samples of macroscopic size. Recent experiments demonstrated that superconducting quantum circuits have the potential to drastically enhance the spin detection sensitivity down to the detection of ~10 spins within 5 fL. However, these demonstrations have so far been done using well-known model spin systems and in restrictive conditions: very narrow spin and detector linewidths, extremely low microwave losses, and low static magnetic fields. They are thus incompatible with modus operandi that are typical in EPR spectroscopy: probing aqueous or non-crystalline samples, applying strong magnetic fields, or studying species with short coherence lifetimes or spin-spin interactions which require large excitation bandwidth. The restrictive conditions of these proof-of-concepts are however not a prerequisite for achieving high-sensitivity EPR detection. Using recent advances made in the fabrication process and in the design of quantum circuits, I propose to lift these restrictions and build a quantum-circuit based EPR spectrometer able to probe a large scope of spin species and to detect, characterize and image EPR signals in micron-sized samples. We will meet this goal by 1) developing a resilient high-sensitivity spectrometer able to probe spins with short coherence times and characterize spin-spin interactions; 2) implementing imaging techniques with sub-micron resolution; and 3) benchmarking our spectrometer for typical volume-limited applications. Our EPR spectrometer will open interesting research paths in biology chemistry or condensed matter, for instance by allowing to detect EPR signals in single cells, micro-protein crystals or from organic semiconductors.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 992 500,00
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 992 500,00

Beneficiaries (1)