Providing a glimpse into the infinitesimal, physicists have found a novel way of spying on some of the universe's tiniest building blocks.

Their "camera," described this week in the journal Nature, consists of a special "flaw" in diamonds that can be manipulated into sensitively monitoring magnetic signals from individual electrons and atomic nuclei placed nearby.

The new work represents a dramatic sharpening of the basic approach used in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which ascertain chemical structures and image inside human bodies by scanning the magnetic activity of billions of individual nuclei. The new diamond-based magnetic sensor could enable novel forms of imaging, marrying NMR's noninvasive nature with atomic-scale spatial resolution, potentially benefiting fields ranging from materials science, spintronics, and quantum information to structural biology, neuroscience, and biomedicine.

Read more here (EurekAlert)

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