Nav: Home

Quantum probes dramatically improve detection of nuclear spins

July 03, 2017

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have demonstrated a way to detect nuclear spins in molecules non-invasively, providing a new tool for biotechnology and materials science.

Important research in medicine and biology relies on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, but until now, it has been limited in spatial resolution and typically requires powerful microwave fields. A team led by Professor Lloyd Hollenberg at the University of Melbourne has used a quantum probe to perform microwave-free NMR at the nanoscale. The results were published today in Nature Communications.

"This quantum probe delivers a dramatic improvement in NMR technology. In addition to being able to detect NMR in far smaller samples than conventional machines, our technique does not require the application of microwave fields that might disrupt biological samples" said Hollenberg, who is Deputy Director of the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) and Thomas Baker Chair at the University of Melbourne.

"In NMR the goal is to detect the magnetic signal from the nuclei of the atoms comprising molecules. But the signal from the nuclear "spin" is very weak and conventional NMR machines require many millions of nuclear spins to detect anything. However, using the quantum properties of a 'defect' in diamond, our technique can detect much smaller volumes down to only thousands of spins."

The discovery may overcome significant limitations with conventional NMR methods, which depend on machines that can exceed 10 tonnes.

"The problem with the large NMR machines in widespread use today is that the signals we're trying to detect are extremely small, and the distance from the measurement device to the object being measured is very large," said Dr. Alastair Stacey, a CQC2T postdoctoral researcher.

"This creates two problems: The machine can only see a larger collection of molecules, reducing the accuracy of the measurement. It also has to use very strong microwaves and magnetic fields to reach the sample, but these processes are invasive and can affect delicate bio-samples, just like the microwave in your kitchen, particularly when trying to see the molecular structure of liquids."

Lead author James Wood describes the technique as "a dramatic simplification of the nuclear detection process, where we essentially shine light on an atomic-sized defect in diamond and observe its natural response, at a fundamentally quantum level, to the target nuclear spins nearby".

"A great benefit of our approach is that we don't interfere with the sample when imaging it."

The technique offers new opportunities for researchers.

"With these advances in quantum sensing technology, we are opening the door to a new world of scientific investigation that could lead us to gain a better understanding of the smallest building blocks of life," said Hollenberg.
-end-
The research is supported with funding from the Australian Research Council through the Centre of Excellence and Laureate Fellowship programs.

Centre for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology

Related Nuclear Articles:

Explosive nuclear astrophysics
An international team has made a key discovery related to 'presolar grains' found in some meteorites.
Nuclear medicine and COVID-19: New content from The Journal of Nuclear Medicine
In one of five new COVID-19-related articles and commentaries published in the June issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, Johnese Spisso discusses how the UCLA Hospital System has dealt with the pandemic.
Going nuclear on the moon and Mars
It might sound like science fiction, but scientists are preparing to build colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars.
Unused stockpiles of nuclear waste could be more useful than we might think
Chemists have found a new use for the waste product of nuclear power -- transforming an unused stockpile into a versatile compound which could be used to create valuable commodity chemicals as well as new energy sources.
Six degrees of nuclear separation
For the first time, Argonne scientists have printed 3D parts that pave the way to recycling up to 97 percent of the waste produced by nuclear reactors.
How to dismantle a nuclear bomb
MIT team successfully tests a new method for verification of weapons reduction.
Material for nuclear reactors to become harder
Scientists from NUST MISIS developed a unique composite material that can be used in harsh temperature conditions, such as those in nuclear reactors.
Nuclear physics -- probing a nuclear clock transition
Physicists have measured the energy associated with the decay of a metastable state of the thorium-229 nucleus.
Milestones on the way to the nuclear clock
For decades, people have been searching for suitable atomic nuclei for building an ultra-precise nuclear clock.
Nuclear winter would threaten nearly everyone on Earth
If the United States and Russia waged an all-out nuclear war, much of the land in the Northern Hemisphere would be below freezing in the summertime, with the growing season slashed by nearly 90 percent in some areas, according to a Rutgers-led study.
More Nuclear News and Nuclear Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Sound And Silence
Sound surrounds us, from cacophony even to silence. But depending on how we hear, the world can be a different auditory experience for each of us. This hour, TED speakers explore the science of sound. Guests on the show include NPR All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly, neuroscientist Jim Hudspeth, writer Rebecca Knill, and sound designer Dallas Taylor.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven't always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.