University of Maryland researchers have developed a method to build diamond-based hybrid nanoparticles in large quantities from the ground up, thereby circumventing many of the problems with current methods.
Nanomaterials have the potential to speed up computer chips, increase the resolution of medical imaging devices and make electronics more energy efficient. But, imbuing nanomaterials with the right properties can be time consuming and costly. The new less expensive method for constructing diamond-based hybrid nanomaterials could launch the field forward, experts say.
The method enables precise control of the particles’ properties, such as the composition and total number of non-diamond particles. The hybrid nanoparticles could speed the design of room-temperature quantum bits for quantum computers, brighter dyes for biomedical imaging, and highly sensitive magnetic and temperature sensors.
The process begins with tiny, nanoscale diamonds that contain a specific type of impurity: A single nitrogen atom where a carbon atom should be, with an empty space right next to it, resulting from a second missing carbon atom. This “nitrogen vacancy” impurity gives each diamond special optical and electromagnetic properties.
Evidence also suggests that a single nitrogen vacancy exhibits quantum physical properties and could behave as a quantum bit, or qubit, at room temperature, according to the researchers. Nearly all qubits studied to date require ultra-cold temperatures to function properly.
A qubit that works at room temperature would represent a significant step forward, facilitating the integration of quantum circuits into medical, industrial, commercial and consumer-level electronics.
The research paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.