It may sound contradictory, but diamonds are the key to a new technique that could provide a very-low-cost alternative to multimillion-dollar medical imaging and drug-discovery devices.
An international team led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley discovered how to exploit defects in nanoscale and microscale diamonds and potentially enhance the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) systems while eliminating the need for their costly and bulky superconducting magnets.
“This has been a longstanding unsolved problem in our field, and we were able to find a way to overcome it and to show that the solution is very simple,” said Ashok Ajoy, a postdoctoral researcher in the Materials Sciences Division at Berkeley Lab, and the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, who served as the lead author of the study. “No one has ever done this before. The mechanism that we discovered is completely new.”
MRI machines are employed to locate cancerous tumors and aid in the development of treatment plans, while NMR machines are used to examine the atomic-scale structure and chemistry of drug compounds and other molecules.