A. Ajoy, U. Bissbort, M. D. Lukin, R. L. Walsworth, and P. Cappellaro
Nuclear spin imaging at the atomic level is essential for the understanding of fundamental biological phenomena and for applications such as drug discovery. The advent of novel nanoscale sensors promises to achieve the long-standing goal of single-protein, high spatial-resolution structure determination under ambient conditions. In particular, quantum sensors based on the spin-dependent photoluminescence of nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond have recently been used to detect nanoscale ensembles of external nuclear spins. While NV sensitivity is approaching single-spin levels, extracting relevant information from a very complex structure is a further challenge since it requires not only the ability to sense the magnetic field of an isolated nuclear spin but also to achieve atomic-scale spatial resolution. Here, we propose a method that, by exploiting the coupling of the NV center to an intrinsic quantum memory associated with the nitrogen nuclear spin, can reach a tenfold improvement in spatial resolution, down to atomic scales. The spatial resolution enhancement is achieved through coherent control of the sensor spin, which creates a dynamic frequency filter selecting only a few nuclear spins at a time. We propose and analyze a protocol that would allow not only sensing individual spins in a complex biomolecule, but also unraveling couplings among them, thus elucidating local characteristics of the molecule structure.