Innovation and Partnerships Office

Specialized Diamond Materials for NMR Signal Enhancement 2016-156


Materials characterization for

  • commercial manufacturing quality control
  • development of unique materials
  • research and education


  • Enables smaller, more versatile characterization devices
  • Can be used to characterize almost any kind of material


Berkeley Lab’s Alex Pines has led a team of researchers in the discovery of a specialized form of diamond that enhances nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signals by leveraging nitrogen vacancy (NV) defects in diamond with optimal content of nitrogen, NV centers, and 13C nuclei.

Polarization of nitrogen vacancy (NV) centers in diamond can, theoretically, be used to boost weak signals. In the Berkeley Lab technology, spin polarization of the NV center is transferred by optical pumping to nuclear spins in a sample of interest outside the diamond. The sample can then be transferred to the NMR spectrometer in a hyperpolarized state resulting in NMR signal enhancement of many orders of magnitude

Although NMR spectroscopy is a useful tool for industry and scientific research, the signal detected in NMR is inherently weak. By using nitrogen vacancy centers in diamond to boost the weak signals, the Berkeley Lab technology eliminates the need for large, expensive superconducting magnets, cryogens, or radical dopants for signal enhancement and opens the door to smaller more versatile characterization devices.

DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle.

STATUS: Available for licensing or collaborative research.