Did you know that ...

... diamonds can also be sensors?

'Diamonds are a girl’s best friend' is an iconic catchphrase popularized in Marilyn Monroe's famous song. And one of the James Bond films – Diamonds Are for Ever – immortalized the durability of these precious stones. But diamonds can do much more than just look good, sparkle and, of course, cost a lot of money. One excellent example: Two researchers in the German cities of Stuttgart and Ulm integrate foreign atoms into diamond lattices in order to create well-defined quantum states.

Professors Jörg Wrachtrup and Fedor Jelezko use this trick to observe the quantum states of the foreign atoms under normal laboratory conditions. The knowledge gained in this way can be utilized, for example, to process information about the quantum states at exceptional speed and – in quantum kryptography – transmit data without any risk of interception.

A more recent application of this integration of foreign atoms into diamonds is the construction of sensors, exploiting the ability of quantum states to react very sensitively to their surroundings. In medical technology, for instance, this enables crisper, faster images in magnetic resonance tomography (MTR) for tumor diagnosis. The sensors also support the navigation aid for self-driving cars. The two researchers recently verified that this can function in principle, earning them the ZEISS Research Award 2016. So, they are well justified in saying that 'Diamonds are a scientist's best friend.'

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