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article imageDiamond technology creates low-cost medical imaging

By Tim Sandle     Aug 12, 2018 in Technology
As well as being prized as items of jewelry, diamonds have a number of industrial uses. A new study shows how diamonds are being used to improve the quality of medical imaging and to lower production costs.
The main medical imaging application is nuclear magnetic resonance. This is a widely used spectroscopic technique, being used with chemical structure analysis to medical imaging.
Nuclear magnetic resonance is a physical phenomenon whereby nuclei in a strong static magnetic field are perturbed by a weak oscillating magnetic field and respond by producing an electromagnetic signal. As a spectroscopic technique it is possible to observe local magnetic fields around atomic nuclei. As a medical imaging technique it is used in areas like radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body in both health and disease.
The method is versatile but it suffers from a low sensitivity, which holds back some applications of the technology, like in point-of-care medical use. New research into the application of diamonds will help to address this.
File photo: An MRI technologist  shows scans on the monitors.
File photo: An MRI technologist, shows scans on the monitors.
With the new research, scientists have addressed the issue of diamonds not being optimally orientated. A new process allows this, and this enables a more uniform spin polarization to be achieved. By controlling the spin polarization of diamonds, more accurate techniques can be developed, which allows for new applications for medical imaging.
The researchers, according to Research and Development Magazine, discovered that by exciting a collection of microscale diamonds with green laser light and then subjecting them to a weak magnetic field, before sweeping across the diamonds with a microwave source, this enhances a controllable spin polarization property in the diamonds. This then becomes the basis of improved medical scanning machines.
The scientists have developed a miniaturized system and they have applied for patents on the technique with the aim of developing a commercial system via a startup enterprise.
The approach has drawn upon research into quantum computing, where researchers have been attempting to control the spin polarization of electrons so that data can be transmitted and stored.
The use of the diamonds has been published in the journal Science Advances. The research paper is titled “Orientation-independent room temperature optical 13C hyperpolarization in powdered diamond.”
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