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Diamonds engage at the nano scale

Manipulating the quantum properties of diamond impurities is a step closer to quantum computing, finer-scale microscopes.

1:09pm, October 1, 2008

The nearly-occult art of quantum computing research could soon help scientists in fields as remote as biology.

Two teams of researchers from the United States and Germany have found a way to essentially make diamond nanocrystals into microscopes that would see at the resolution of a single molecule. Such resolution could image the structure and motion of single molecules and reveal previously unseen inner workings of the living cell.

The researchers manipulated the quantum properties of single nitrogen atoms embedded in diamond crystals, turning the atoms into sensitive detectors of magnetic fields.

“It’s a real-world application of a quantum manipulation technique,” says Mikhail Lukin of HarvardUniversity, a member of one of the teams. Both teams report their results in the Oct. 2 Nature.

Daniel Rugar, a researcher at IBM’s AlmadenResearchCenter in San Jose, Calif., says the teams

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