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University of Basel

11 May 2015

First theoretical proof: Measurement of a single nuclear spin in biological samples

Physicists of the University of Basel and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute were able to show for the first time that the nuclear spins of single molecules can be detected with the help of magnetic particles at room temperature. In «Nature Nanotechnology», the researchers describe a novel experimental setup with which the tiny magnetic fields of the nuclear spins of single biomolecules – undetectable so far – could be registered for the first time. The proposed concept would improve medical diagnostics as well as analyses of biological and chemical samples in a decisive step forward.

The measurement of nuclear spins is routine by now in medical diagnostics (MRI). However, the currently existing devices need billions of atoms for the analysis and thus are not useful for many small-scale applications. Over many decades, scientists worldwide have thus engaged in an intense search for alternative methods, which would improve the sensitivity of the measurement techniques.

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