Technology

Diamond-based quantum sensors to detect SARS-CoV-2

The new approach uses atomic-scale defects in tiny bits of diamond, called nitrogen vacancy (NV) centers

The new approach uses atomic-scale defects in tiny bits of diamond, called nitrogen vacancy (NV) centers

Researchers at MIT are developing a diamond-based quantum sensors to detect SARS-CoV-2 virus, and other newer variants.

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The new approach may offer faster, cheaper, and more accurate detection, according to a research report by the university.

Existing tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus include rapid tests that detect specific viral proteins, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that take several hours to process.

Neither of these tests can quantify the amount of virus present with high accuracy and the gold-standard PCR tests might have false-negative rates of more than 25%.

But the new test could bring down false negative rates to under 1%, and detect a few hundred strands of the viral RNA, within just a second.

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The new approach uses atomic-scale defects in tiny bits of diamond, called nitrogen vacancy (NV) centers. These tiny defects are extremely sensitive to minute disturbances due to quantum effects taking place in the diamond.

These nanodiamonds with NV centers are coated with a material that is magnetically coupled to them and bonds only with the specific RNA sequence of the virus.

When the virus RNA is present, it bonds to this material, disrupts the magnetic connection and changes the diamond’s fluorescence that can be easily detected with a laser-based optical sensor, MIT said.

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MIT has also highlighted that the sensor uses only low-cost materials. The diamonds involved are smaller than specks of dust. The gadolinium-based coating with its RNA-tuned organic molecules can be produced using common chemical processes and materials, and the lasers used to read out the results are comparable to cheap, widely available commercial green laser pointers.

The basic method can be adapted to any virus including any new ones that may arise, simply by adapting the compounds that are attached to the nanodiamond sensors to match the generic material of the specific target virus, said Paola Cappellaro, a professor of nuclear science and engineering and of physics, MIT.


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Printable version | May 23, 2022 7:56:34 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/diamond-based-quantum-sensors-to-detect-sars-cov-2/article38019305.ece