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New type of superconducting probe for thin-film nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

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Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation, more specifically the observation of local magnetic fields around the atomic nuclei of a sample (hence nuclear). It provides information about the structure of matter. In addition to being common in academic laboratories, NMR spectroscopy is a widely used technique in the chemical, pharmacological, biological, and advanced materials industries. However, to be functional, this technique requires relatively large sample volumes or concentrations. Such volumes are sometimes too expensive, or even impossible to produce. 

The present invention constitutes an improvement of the classic NMR techniques, a new hypersensitive probe which makes it possible to adapt NMR spectroscopy to drastically smaller samples (from 100 to 1000 times smaller), more particularly to 2D samples (thin layers) .


The invention takes advantage of recent advances in micro-fabrication and superconducting materials to greatly increase the sensitivity of the probe. A superconducting material loses all electrical resistance below a critical temperature (Tc) and can carry current without loss of energy, which makes these materials very attractive compared to traditional technologies based on copper or aluminium. The meandering shape of the inductor as well as the use of superconducting materials allow a significant reduction in the size of the probe. No other probe has the sensitivity to measure 2D samples thinner than 1µm. FIG. 1 represents a millimetric microelectronic substrate; the sample is placed on the left. During measurements, the probe is inserted into a metal cylinder and immersed in liquid helium at -269 degrees Celsius (or higher (see maturity section)). At these temperatures, superconducting effects are present.

Spectrometer sensitivity – the micrometer meander geometry of the inductor allows for a high fill factor (i.e. the effective overlap of the magnetic field with the sample) since the magnetic field is held at the surface. In addition, it significantly reduces the active size of the probe compared to the competition. The design of the existing probes, more particularly the inductive component, does not make it possible to concentrate the magnetic field in a volume as small as this new probe.



  • Study of 2D materials (thin films), impossible with current probes.

  • Hypersensitive probe to adapt NMR spectroscopy to radically smaller samples (100 to 1000 times smaller) than conventional systems.

  • Smaller samples are cheaper samples. The only probe capable of this.

  • The majority of probes sold by scientific instrument companies use macroscopic electrical components made from conventional metals. Their large size considerably limits the minimum sample volume.

  • Radiofrequency resonator of unequaled sensitivity.

  • Non-invasive probe to explore the magnetic behaviors of 2D quantum materials.

  • More robust probe because it does not contain delicate nanoscale systems compared to existing high-sensitivity NMR techniques.


  • Low cost and easier to manufacture: can be produced on a large scale with conventional micro-fabrication techniques.

  • Easier to implement since it is directly compatible with conventional NMR systems and operates at a much lower electromagnetic power, which simplifies and reduces the size of the electronic system controlling the probe.


  • For the first time, a probe that allows NMR spectroscopy on extremely fine samples.

  • Common in academic laboratories, NMR spectroscopy is widely used in the chemical, pharmacological, biological and advanced materials industries. To be functional, this technique requires relatively large sample volumes or concentrations. Such volumes are sometimes too expensive, or even impossible to produce. The hypersensitive probe of this new invention therefore makes it possible to adapt NMR spectroscopy to drastically smaller 2D samples.

  • The study of quantum and superconducting materials.

  • The study of 2D nanometric materials such as graphene.



TRL 5+

  • Prototypes available; a schematic is shown in Figure 1.

  • For example: Results obtained on a 1 nanoliter sample, compared to competing commercial probes which typically cannot measure less than 1µL.

  • Inventors currently working on:

    • Optimization of the resonator: thickness and type of superconductor, higher temperatures, dimensions of the meander, on-chip design electronics.


  • Patent application filed in the United States.


Development partners. Investments. Licenses. 

Project Director: François Nadeau

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