Diamond nitrogen-vacancy-based quantum imaging and sensing systems Meet Laura Kim

Growing up, Laura Kim, Ph.D., loved finding patterns in the world around her. 

As a result, she was naturally attracted to the predictability of the world that mathematical rules revealed and loved performing hypothesis-driven experiments in science classes. Her affinity for math and science was further nurtured by her father, an aerospace engineer, and by her many academic mentors and professors throughout her educational career. 

Diamond nitrogen-vacancy-based quantum imaging and sensing systems

Laura Kim, Ph.D., is developing a new type of diamond nitrogen-vacancy-based quantum imaging and sensing system as part of the Intelligence Community (IC) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program. Photo Credit: Amy Texter

Kim received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 2013, followed by her doctoral degree in materials science in 2019. Now, Kim is applying her knowledge and expertise as a fellow in the Intelligence Community (IC) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

The IC Postdoc Program offers scientists and engineers from a wide variety of disciplines unique opportunities to conduct research relevant to the Intelligence Community. The program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). Kim is serving her appointment as part of the Quantum Photonics Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Under the guidance of her mentor, Professor Dirk Englund, Kim is developing a new type of diamond nitrogen-vacancy-based quantum imaging and sensing system.  

Nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers are atom-sized quantum sensors that have emerged as one of the leading solid-state quantum systems. NV-based quantum sensors are advantageous for their technical simplicity compared to other competing technologies, as they can operate at room temperature and are bio-compatible. 

“As the electronic transitions of NVs are optically accessible, with optimized photonic control, the NV-based sensing and imaging systems will be able to achieve unparalleled sensitivity and down-to-nanometer-scale spatial resolution,” explained Kim. 

“With a periodic array of nanostructures incorporated in diamond hosting quantum sensors, the diamond surface forms a metasurface that can control phase and amplitude changes of the optical field interacting with NV electron spins. Diamond metasurfaces confine the optical field near the surface, thus amplifying the signal coming from nitrogen vacancy atom-like quantum sensors in diamond and giving exceptional sensitivity.”

The goal of Kim’s research is to develop nanophotonic-enhanced quantum sensing platforms that are more sensitive, more compact, enable more rapid measurement and are more scalable than existing platforms. The improved sensors will be able to measure various types of samples, including biological samples, quantum materials and devices such as battery cells and computer chips. If successful, Kim’s research will make immediate impact in medical, environmental and defense applications.

“Additionally, this quantum metasurface work has far-reaching implications,” said Kim. “This new type of diamond quantum microscopy will enable spatially resolved information with extreme sensitivity about local magnetic field, electric field and temperature biological systems, energy materials, devices and more.”

Throughout the course of her fellowship experience, Kim is learning many new experimental and theoretical skills that will help her advance her career. She has broadened her perspectives on light-matter interface for quantum engineering and had many opportunities to collaborate with experts across multiple disciplines. 

Kim strongly recommends the IC Postdoc Program to anyone who is looking for a postdoctoral research position and describes her fellowship as extremely rewarding.

“My fellowship allowed me to have freedom in navigating my own research, and also exposed me to new field,” she said. “I felt very well supported by my mentor and had a sense of belonging in the IC community.”

When her appointment concludes, Kim plans to continue her career in academia by conducting research as a faculty member at a research university. She also hopes to boost female leadership in the scientific community and aims to eventually become a mentor herself, passing along the valuable experiences she gained during her fellowship.

“My research and learning experiences would not have been possible without the guidance of mentors who valued educating the next generation and sacrificed their time to share their knowledge and discoveries,” said Kim. “Nurturing future generation of scientists and engineers and watching them succeed would be incredibly rewarding.”

The IC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) under an agreement between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU. For more information about the IC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program, please visit https://orise.orau.gov/icpostdoc/.