Various physical measurement techniques are faced with the challenge of accurately reading the electrical fields.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have come up with a novel method of measuring the electrical field by using a single defect center in a diamond. Electrical charges exercise control over the physical, biological or chemical activities in different ways. An example is the way DNA controls the transmission of genetic information depending on the distribution of electrons over the DNA. Therefore, it becomes vital to precisely measure minute electronic fields associated with the charges.
Through extensive research on these lines, the scientists at the University of Stuttgart have come up with the new sensor that is comprised by a single atom. This sole nitrogen atom is encompassed in a diamond in the form of an impurity. The lattice arrangement in the diamond holds the atom and thus allows a laser to penetrate the nuclear vacancy center. The magnitude of light emitted by the impurity is a measure of the electrical field. The electrical fields are a fraction of the electrical field of an elementary charge in distances of 0, 1 µm. As we have interaction with a single atom only, the electrical fields can be easily measured precisely.
This sensor can be placed in any required geometry as it gives an optical readout. Also sensitive and high-resolution readings can be achieved at favourable conditions and at room temperature. This sensor is capable of measuring magnetic fields as well. This unique capability of measuring electric and magnetic fields makes the sensor very useful in applications such as simultaneous measurement the distribution of magnetic moments’ of nuclei of chemical compounds or even the distribution of electrons in single molecules. Thus, by using this sensor we can study the structure of the substance and determine its chemical reactivity at the same time.