Quantum Diamond Sensors Could Give Us a New Look Inside Our Bodies

Quantum effects are measured in nanometers, which makes it difficult to study and observe without disruption. To overcome these issues, researchers have developed clever ways of indirectly observing quantum interactions. One study group in Japan aligned an array of quantum sensors called ‘nitrogen vacancy centres’ which don’t study quantum interactions themselves, but rather the effects these interactions have on other objects. In this case, the nitrogen vacancy centres detect the behavior of protons in a protein sample

Nitrogen vacancy centres occur as impurities in the crystal surface of the diamond. These impurities happen at specific locations throughout the crystal structure and each provides a single-photon signal that can be detected by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Quantum interactions would disturb the nitrogen vacancy centres in predictable ways and researchers would be able to measure the changes. Tools such as this could help tell scientists about quantum mechanical relationships that drive behavior and help detect individual proteins in a cell.