[Image Courtesy: Saarland University]

Diamonds have added one more field to its extensive range of industrial applications. The latest breakthrough in the field of magnetometers – an instrument used to detect the presence of magnetic fields, comes in the form of Lab-grown diamonds from the research labs of MIT. Magnetometers have wide array of applications including imaging techniques, contraband goods detection at security check and exploration of mineral deposits and geological structures. The new technology using Lab-grown diamonds will make magnetometers thousand times more effective than the existing one.

[Image Courtesy: Hannah Clevenson, MIT, Lincoln Laboratory]
In gemological world, presence of impurities like nitrogen vacancies pulls down the value of diamond. In contrast, this new technology banks on the nitrogen vacancy defects in the diamond lattice, which are highly sensitive to magnetic fields. These nitrogen vacancies present in diamonds absorb and emit light, which contain information about nearby magnetic fields. Lab-grown diamonds used for this purpose are created in form of square chips with a sawed-off corner where light can enter the diamond. Apart from increasing efficiency, usage of diamonds will reduce the size of magnetometers by manifolds.

Magnetometers are not the only beneficiaries of this new finding. Lab-grown diamonds with induced nitrogen vacancy defects can also be used to unravel the molecular structure of proteins. Nitrogen defects present close to diamond’s surface can be used to determine structure of a biological molecule placed above it.

Uncovering structure of protein molecules can help us understand basic biological processes and provide us a way to develop new drugs that can interact with specific targets. The existing technologies for determining molecular structure have several limitations restraining their applicability. Lab-grown diamond technology works perfectly under normal conditions and does not require low temperatures or vacuum unlike in existing methods.

Another significant ongoing research is the usage of diamonds in quantum computation and quantum communication. Diamonds are no longer simple pretty stones used for ornamentation. They are indeed so much more!


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