Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Zooming Way In, Technique Offers Close-ups Of Electrons, Nuclei

Date:
October 7, 2008
Source:
Harvard University
Summary:
Providing a glimpse into the infinitesimal, physicists have found a novel way of spying on some of the universe's tiniest building blocks. Their "camera" consists of a special "flaw" in diamonds that can be manipulated into sensitively monitoring magnetic signals from individual electrons and atomic nuclei placed nearby.

Providing a glimpse into the infinitesimal, physicists have found a novel way of spying on some of the universe's tiniest building blocks.

Their "camera," described this week in the journal Nature, consists of a special "flaw" in diamonds that can be manipulated into sensitively monitoring magnetic signals from individual electrons and atomic nuclei placed nearby.

The new work represents a dramatic sharpening of the basic approach used in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which ascertain chemical structures and image inside human bodies by scanning the magnetic activity of billions of individual nuclei. The new diamond-based magnetic sensor could enable novel forms of imaging, marrying NMR's noninvasive nature with atomic-scale spatial resolution, potentially benefiting fields ranging from materials science, spintronics, and quantum information to structural biology, neuroscience, and biomedicine.

Among other applications, the new research could make it possible to peer inside proteins, map the structure of impossibly intricate molecules, closely observe the dynamics of microscopic biochemical processes, monitor the activity of neural circuits, or use single electrons and nuclei for storing and processing information. Some of these applications were recently described by the authors in a separate contribution published online Sept. 14 in the journal Nature Physics.

"Although some existing magnetic field sensors have higher sensitivity, they probe magnetic fields over large volumes of space," says Mikhail D. Lukin, professor of physics in Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "The combination of excellent sensitivity and nanoscale spatial resolution that we demonstrate is completely unique. Potentially, it may allow one to image single nuclei in individual molecules."

The collaborative research, led by Lukin and Harvard physicists Amir Yacoby and Ronald L. Walsworth, involved scientists from Harvard, the Smithsonian Institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pittsburgh.

The work builds on a Science paper published last year by Lukin and colleagues. That paper reported that single atoms of carbon-13 -- which make up some 1.1 percent of natural diamond -- can be manipulated via a nearby single electron that can, in turn, be controlled by focusing laser light on a diamond lattice flaw where nitrogen replaces an atom of carbon. Such excitation using optical and microwave radiation causes the diamond flaw's electron spin to act as a very sensitive magnetic probe with extraordinary spatial resolution.

An electron's spin, or intrinsic angular momentum, acts like a tiny magnet, providing one of the few outwardly detectable signs of an atom's location. An atomic nucleus can also have a spin, but because a nucleus is much heavier than an electron, its magnetic field is a thousand times smaller, making it much harder to detect.

"Our magnetic sensor is based on a single electronic spin associated with an impurity or flaw in a small diamond crystal. We managed to turn our understanding of quantum information physics into an extraordinary measuring apparatus," says Yacoby, professor of physics at Harvard. "A nanocrystal of diamond containing this specific type of impurity could be placed on the tip of a needle as a minuscule probe of extremely weak magnetic fields, such as those generated by the spin of an electron or even an atomic nucleus."

The 2007 work effectively brought the futuristic technology of quantum information systems into the realm of solid-state materials under ordinary conditions; the current research builds on that advance to develop new nanometer-scale magnetic sensors that could have important new implications in imaging of a variety of materials, biological compounds, and tissues.

"Precision sensing of magnetic fields is at the forefront of a wide range of scientific fields -- from nanoscience to bioimaging," says Walsworth, senior lecturer on physics at Harvard and senior physicist at the Smithsonian. "Potential nanoscale applications of the diamond magnetic sensor include detection of individual electron and nuclear spins in complex biological molecules, and serving as a universal 'quantum magnetic head' for addressing and readout of quantum bits of information encoded in an electron or nuclear spin memory."

Accompanying this work in the current issue of Nature is a report from scientists at the University of Stuttgart who've obtained the first scanning images using a diamond magnetic sensor.

"This is a case where the sum of two contributions is really greater than their parts," says Lukin. "Together, they really jump-start a new research field."

Lukin, Yacoby, and Walsworth's co-authors on the Nature paper are Jeronimo Maze, Sungkun Hong, Liang Jiang, Emre Togan, and Alexander Zibrov, all at Harvard; Paul Stanwix of the Smithsonian; Jonathan Hodges at Harvard and MIT; Jacob Taylor at MIT; and M.V. Gurudev Dutt at Pittsburgh. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Packard Foundation, and Harvard's Center for Nanoscale Systems.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard University. The original article was written by Steve Bradt. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Harvard University. "Zooming Way In, Technique Offers Close-ups Of Electrons, Nuclei." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081001145014.htm>.
Harvard University. (2008, October 7). Zooming Way In, Technique Offers Close-ups Of Electrons, Nuclei. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081001145014.htm
Harvard University. "Zooming Way In, Technique Offers Close-ups Of Electrons, Nuclei." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081001145014.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lithium Battery 'Holy Grail' Could Provide 4 Times The Power

Lithium Battery 'Holy Grail' Could Provide 4 Times The Power

Newsy (July 28, 2014) Stanford University published its findings for a "pure" lithium ion battery that could have our everyday devices and electric cars running longer. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shipping Crates Get New 'lease' On Life

Shipping Crates Get New 'lease' On Life

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 25, 2014) Shipping containers have been piling up as America imports more than it exports. Some university students in Washington D.C. are set to get a first-hand lesson in recycling. Their housing is being built using refashioned shipping containers. Lily Jamali reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins