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Research Fellows Directory

Brian Patton

Dr Brian Patton

Research Fellow


University of Strathclyde

Research summary

One of the quiet scientific revolutions of the last 30 years has been in our ability to

efficiently create materials with defined properties on demand and to exacting

specifications. One such system is artificially grown diamond. This is interesting

both for its intrinsic properties (such as extreme hardness, high thermal

conductivity and resilience to both chemical and radiation damage) and because,

when you dope diamond with other elements, it forms various “defect systems”

associated with the presence of non-carbon elements in the diamond lattice. My

research uses the optical properties of one such system in which a nitrogen atom

replaces one carbon atom and an additional carbon atom is missing from a

neighbouring site. This nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centre is a common defect in

diamond. In high densities they give diamond a yellow colour since they are

optically active – each defect can emit either red or yellow light depending on

whether it is electrically charged or not. It is the charged state that excites me

most as it is shows various effects that allow it to be used as a sensor of electric,

magnetic and stress fields. Additionally, through the property of the electron known

as spin, measurements with the NV centre can be made highly sensitive by taking

advantage of recently developed techniques known as quantum-enhanced


I wish to create “super-resolution” microscopes that use NV centres to measure

local magnetic and electric fields with exquisite sensitivity and accuracy. As such,

we can envisage viewing the firing of neural cells in real time and with a resolution

and field of view that could encompass networks of tens or hundreds of neurons.

This will allow the detailed mapping of biological structures and, since we can use

adaptive optics techniques to correct for any optical aberrations, these structures

can be located in living tissue.

Grants awarded

Imaging Deep Tissue Neural Processes with Nanodiamond

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2013 - Sep 2018

Value: £480,079.81