Ampere Prize
for Young Investigators

Ampere Prize for Young Investigators

Prof. Ashok Ajoy

The AMPERE Prize 2023 for Young Investigators is awarded to Prof. Ashok Ajoy for his substantial contributions to solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance in view of his creativity, intellectual brilliance, productivity and further promise in scientific research. His research focuses on improving the spatial resolution and sensitivity of NMR via coupling to optical degrees of freedom, hyperpolarization, and the outstanding coherence properties of nuclear spins in unusual regimes.

Early on Prof. Ajoy leveraged developments in the quantum information field with Nitrogen Vacancy (NV) defect centers in diamond for optical detection of magnetic resonance signals at submicron length scales. His work enabled collaborating groups at Harvard to observe magnetic resonance signatures from single molecules and single proteins. He also demonstrated a solid-state gyroscope based on optically polarized 14N nuclear spins in diamond that can interface with existing MEMS devices. This gyroscope initiated further research aiming at the construction of compact air- or space-borne instruments.

Complementing his work on ultrasensitive detection, Prof. Ajoy has pushed the frontiers of room-temperature optical hyperpolarization in nano diamonds as polarizing agents with long coherence times for both electron and nuclear spins. He developed an optical pumping methodology with a solid-state device the size of a shoebox that generates and transfers hyperpolarization in disordered diamond-powder grains employing a diode laser and a refrigerator magnet. The device works at low-field where the electron-nuclear hyperfine coupling is larger than the nuclear Larmor frequency. It can hyperpolarize 13C nuclei in diamond nanoparticles to >1% within tens of seconds.

Recently Prof. Ajoy combined optical and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging for background-free particle imaging in a “dual” imaging mode employing microdiamond particles that fluoresce brightly under optical excitation while 13C is simultaneously hyperpolarized, making them bright under MR imaging. He also observed long-lived transverse spin states in hyperpolarized 13C nuclei, showing a record lifetime of T2’ > 90 s, which is more than 60,000 times longer than the free induction decay and enables new forms of quantum sensors.