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Dr. Victor Acosta Awarded NSF CAREER Award

With support from the Chemical Measurement and Imaging Program in the Division of Chemistry, and co-funding from the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET), Professor Acosta and his group at the University of New Mexico are developing new measurement tools called "quantum sensors" to identify the molecular composition of samples with spatial resolution compatible with analysis of single cells. A quantum sensor uses a qubit (the logical element of a quantum computer) to detect its local environment. Specifically, Acosta's lab uses defects in diamond, called Nitrogen-Vacancy centers, as the qubit sensors. The Acosta group is using these sensors to detect the oscillating magnetic fields naturally produced by chemical and biological samples via a technique that is analogous to medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The information obtained by these methods is being used to identify the type and quantity of molecules in samples of a size comparable to individual cells. Prof. Acosta is working with a startup company to develop portable quantum sensor technology that can be used in undergraduate chemistry and physics teaching labs. His educational efforts also include designing the curriculum for a summer school that will introduce undergraduates from a diverse range of backgrounds to the field of quantum sensing.

Professor Acosta is implementing a synergistic research and educational plan to develop a platform for small-volume nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy which uses diamond quantum sensors to generate and detect nuclear magnetization. Specifically, he seeks to develop two different implementations of diamond NMR hardware: (i) a microfluidic platform suitable for parallel chemical analysis of picoliter analyte volumes and (ii) a hyperspectral NMR microscope for quantifying metabolic composition with single cell resolution. The research is based on the hypothesis a non-inductive detection modality (diamond quantum sensors) can lead to improvements in sensitivity, spectral resolution, spatial resolution, and microfluidic integration beyond what is currently available in small-volume NMR spectroscopy. Dr. Acosta is integrating diamond NMR into undergraduate teaching labs and assessing the learning outcomes. He is also designing a curriculum for a one-week summer or winter school in quantum engineering targeting undergraduates, with an emphasis on women, under-represented minorities, and first-generation college students. His aim is to attract a diverse student body into the physical/chemical sciences and specifically to quantum sensing and engineering.

CAREER: Picoliter Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy with Diamond Quantum Sensors
CHE #1945148
PI: Victor Acosta