Microwave-free nuclear magnetic resonance at molecular scales

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2017-07-03

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15950

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 7

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Research Highlight

Value of diamonds rises in medical imaging

© baranozdemir/E+/Getty

© baranozdemir/E+/Getty

Shining a laser on tiny defects in diamonds could pave the way to non-invasive nanoscale medical imaging.

Medical research draws on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques to visualize molecules by detecting ‘nuclear spins’, or magnetic signals, of atoms. NMR machines are currently extremely large and create low-resolution images. They also blast the target molecules with powerful microwaves that could disrupt biological processes when used for imaging humans.

A team led by researchers from the University of Melbourne have created a microwave-free imaging technique. By shining a laser on an atomic defect in a diamond they were able to observe how electrons in the defect responded to the nuclear spin of atoms in an adjacent layer of hydrogen molecules, the target of their study.

The diamond probe proved as sensitive as microwave-based NMR but didn’t interfere with the target sample, marking an important step towards non-invasive molecular imaging.

Supported content

  1. Nature Communications 8, 15950 (2017). doi: 10.1038/ncomms15950
Institutions FC
School of Physics, UniMelb, Australia 0.93
ANFF Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN), Australia 0.07

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