Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 


Team Creates MRI for the Nanoscale

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reveals details of living tissues, diseased organs and tumors inside the body without x-rays or surgery.

What if the same technology could peer down to the level of atoms? Doctors could make visual diagnoses of a person’s molecules – examining damage on a strand of DNA, watching molecules misfold, or identifying a cancer cell by the proteins on its surface.

Now Dr. Carlos Meriles, associate professor of physics at The City College of New York, and an international team of researchers at the University of Stuttgart and elsewhere have opened the door for nanoscale MRI. They used tiny defects in diamonds to sense the magnetic resonance of molecules. They reported their results in the February 1 issue of Science.

“It is bringing MRI to a level comparable to an atomic force microscope,” said Professor Meriles, referring to the device that traces the contours of atoms or tugs on a molecule to measure its strength. A nanoscale MRI could display how a molecule moves without touching it.

“Standard MRI typically gets to a resolution of 100 microns,” about the width of a human hair, said Professor Meriles. “With extraordinary effort,” he said, “it can get down to about 10 microns” – the width of a couple of blood cells. Nanoscale MRI would have a resolution 1,000 to 10,000 times better.

To try to pick up magnetic resonance on such a small scale, the team took advantage of the spin of protons in an atom, a property usually used to investigate quantum computing. In particular, they used minute imperfections in diamonds.

Diamonds are crystals made up almost entirely of carbon atoms. When a nitrogen atom lodges next to a spot where a carbon atom is missing, however, it creates a defect known as a nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center.

“These imperfections turn out to have a spin – like a little compass – and have some remarkable properties,” noted Professor Meriles. In the last few years, researchers realized that these NV centers could serve as very sensitive sensors. They can pick up the magnetic resonance of nearby atoms in a cell, for example. But unlike the atoms in a cell, the NVs shine when a light is directed at them, signaling what their spin is. If you illuminate it with green light it flashes red back.

“It is a form of what is called optically detected magnetic resonance,” he said. Like a hiker flashing Morse code on a hillside, the sensor “sends back flashes to say it is alive and well.”

“The NV can also be thought of as an atomic magnet. You can manipulate the spin of that atomic magnet just like you do with MRI by applying a radio frequency or radio pulses,” Professor Meriles explained. The NV responds. Shine a green light at it when the spin is pointing up and it will respond with brighter red light. A down spin gives a dimmer red light.

Professor Mireles has written on the theoretical underpinnings of the work and proposed the the project to the team, led by Professor Jörg Wrachtrup — a physicist at the University of Stuttgart in Germany — with the assistance of postdoctoral researcher Friedemann Reinhard and collaborators from the University of Bochum and the University of Science and Technology of China. Professor Wrachtrup heads a leading group studying such defects.

In the lab, graduate student Tobias Staudacher — the first author in this work — used NVs that had been created just below the diamond’s surface by bombarding it with nitrogen atoms. The team detected magnetic resonance within a film of organic material applied to the surface, just as one might examine a thin film of cells or tissue.

“Ultimately,” said Professor Meriles, “One will use a nitrogen-vacancy mounted on the tip of an atomic force microscope – or an array of NVs distributed on the diamond surface – to allow a scanning view of a cell, for example, to probe nuclear spins with a resolution down to a nanometer or perhaps better.”


T. Staudacher, et al. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy on a (5-Nanometer)3 Sample Volume, Science, 1 February 2013: 561 563. [DOI:10.1126/science.1231675

Jessa Netting | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma
28.10.2016 | American Physical Society

nachricht Scientists measure how ions bombard fusion device walls
28.10.2016 | American Physical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neuartige Lichtquellen aus zweidimensionalen Materialien

Physiker der Universität Würzburg haben eine Lichtquelle hergestellt, die Doppelpacks von Photonen emittiert. Zwei-Photonen-Quellen eignen sich besonders gut, um Informationen abhörsicher zu verschlüsseln. Wesentliche Zutaten des Experiments waren ein Halbleiter-Kristall – und etwas Tesafilm.

Im Zentrum der Arbeit stehen so genannte Monolagen. Um diese „Super-Materialien“ (so das renommierte Wissenschafts-Magazin „Nature“) ist in den vergangenen...

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Medica 2016: Neuer Kunststoff der TU Kaiserslautern macht medizinische Steckverbindungen sicherer

Kanülen, Spritzen oder Katheter – ein Großteil medizintechnischer Produkte besteht aus Kunststoff. Auch beim sogenannten Luer-System, einer Steckverbindung für Medizin-Schläuche, ist dies der Fall. Aufgrund von Spannungen kann es hier mit der Zeit zu Rissen kommen, wodurch etwa Luft in eine Infusionslösung geraten kann. Die Folge kann eine Embolie sein. Ingenieure der TU Kaiserslautern haben ein Luer-System mit einem neuen langlebigeren Kunststoff entwickelt. Risse breiten sich deutlich später aus. Auf der Medizintechnikmesse Medica in Düsseldorf stellen die Forscher ihre Arbeit vom 14. bis 17. November am Gemeinschaftsstand Rheinland-Pfalz (Halle 7a, Stand B06) vor.

Bei Infusionen kommt das sogenannte Luer-System zum Einsatz. Es verbindet zum Beispiel verschiedene Spritzen, Schläuche sowie Kanülen – etwa mit...

Im Focus: Mikrostrukturen mit dem Laser ätzen

Mit dem Ultrakurzpulslaser lassen sich nicht nur feine Strukturen schneiden, in einem Verbundprojekt haben Wissenschaftler untersucht, wie man damit auch Mikrostrukturen in Dünnglas erzeugen kann. Anwendungen gibt es im Analytikbereich (lab-on-a-chip), aber auch in der Elektronikbranche und im Consumer-Bereich gibt es großes Interesse.

Am Anfang dieser neuen Methode stand ein überraschender Effekt: Wenn Glas mit dem Ultrakurzpulslaser in der richtigen Weise bestrahlt wird, wird es so...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>



im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics

Copycat: Natur als Blaupause für Innovation?

28.10.2016 | Veranstaltungen

Heilbronner Verkehrsgespräche zum Thema Logistikinnovationen am 7. November 2016

28.10.2016 | Veranstaltungen

Instandhaltung der Bauwerke an den Wasserstraßen

28.10.2016 | Veranstaltungen

Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Wenn Fettzellen die Farbe ändern

28.10.2016 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

MHH-Forscher reparieren geschädigte Blutgefäße mit Nanopartikel-Therapie

28.10.2016 | Medizin Gesundheit

Sand- oder Marmorkuchen? - Neue Einblicke zum Plattenrecycling der Erde

28.10.2016 | Geowissenschaften