Diamond dust adds sparkle to medical imaging

Australian Institute of Physics Congress

A sprinkle of diamond dust could help doctors to diagnose disease better. Ewa Rej and David Reilly from the University of Sydney are testing nanoparticles of the precious gem for their potential to improve MRI scans.

They are examining the possibility that giving patients tiny amounts of nano-diamond will boost the contrast of images, making it easier to spot disease.

Further information:

Diamond nanoparticles for magnetic resonance imaging

E. Rej and D. J. Reilly School of Physics, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

Abstract summary:

We report magnetic resonance experiments on diamond nanoparticles towards the development of MRI contrast agents based on 13C. Our purpose-built spectrometer allows for spin dynamics to be examined at ambient and milli-Kelvin temperatures.



Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a highly important and versatile imaging tool for medical research and diagnosis, providing high resolution images of the human body. Clinically MRI has been largely restricted to 1H nuclei, due to its abundance in the body and large signal strengths. Methods of dynamic nuclear polarization can be used to boost the signal from nuclear species beyond hydrogen and open the prospect of imaging small concentrations of hyperpolarized compounds, introduced into the body in a functionalized and biological compatible form [1,2]. Nuclear spin polarization can be achieved using light [3] or microwave radiation at ultra-low temperatures.


This poster reports the development of a table-top NMR system with cryogenic and dynamic nuclear polarization capabilities. Spin properties of diamond nanoparticles such as the spin-lattice (T1) and spin-spin (T2) relaxation times can be examined with this system. The modular design of the resonance probe allows for measurements at room temperature and, when integrated with a dilution refrigerator, at milli-Kelvin temperatures. The prospect of hyperpolarized 13C imaging using diamond nanoparticles is described.


[1] J. Ardenkjaer-Larsen, B. Fridlund, A. Gram, G. Hansson, L. Hansson, M. H. Lerche, R. Servin, M. Thaning, and K. Golman, “Increase in signal to noise ratio of >10,000 times in liquid state NMR” PNAS, 100, 10158, (2003).

[2] S. Mansson, E. Johansson, P. Magnusson, C. Chai, G. Hansson, J. Petersson, F. Stahlberg, and K. Golman, “13C imaging – a new diagnostic platform”, Eur Radiol, 16, 57, (2006).

[3] J. P. King, P. J. Coles, and J. A. Reimer, “Optical polarization of 13C nuclei in diamond through nitrogen vacancy centres” Phys. Rev. B 81, 073201 (2010).



Ewa Rej, erej@physics.usyd.edu.au

David Reilly, david.reilly@sydney.edu.au