A multinational collaborative effort has resulted in the discovery of a new laser based diamond sensor that can measure magnetic fields 10 times better than current devices, according to university press release.
Magnetic field measurement today is widely used in the field of medicine. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which combines the use of magnets and radio waves to look at organs and structures inside the body, has become an important tool for examining the brain & spinal cord and looking for early signs of diseases.
On the other hand, with advancements in medical technology, we can now also measure the magnetic field generated by electric currents inside our brain. Using a technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG), clinicians can now map activity in the brain and look for locations that might-be source of epileptic seizures or detect malfunctioning neurons, during normal activities in brain.
Challenges of MEG
While technologies like MEGs benefit the medical community, installing & operating these machines is a major challenge. Instrument capable of measuring magnetic fields is expensive and fills-up the entire room that requires magnetic shielding. It also requires ultra cold temperatures to keep the helium used in instrument in liquid state. The most difficult thing is that the patient must remain absolutely still while making these measurements.
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) worked with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics (IAF) in Germany to look for ways to improve the detection of these waves and found that the one used for these detections Diamond could be further improved.
The role of the diamond in MEG
Diamonds are one of the tools used to detect magnetic fields sensing today. The intensity of the light that comes from quantum defects on diamond varies with the strength of the magnetic field. However, the researchers found that most of the light that diamond gives out is lost.
By converting this light into a laser, the researchers were able to collect it entirely, resulting in a 10-fold increase in magnetic field detection.
The researchers predict that an MEG instrument made with their laser-emitting diamond will be much smaller than current devices and could be made portable if needed. Instead of sitting, patients can practically walk with the MEG developed with this new technology. Since the instrument does not require liquid helium, it will also operate at room temperature.
The instrument, which can take up to 5 years to build, will be useful in detecting early signs of diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease & epilepsy.
The researchers have published their findings in the journal Science Advances.