Sci-fi-inspired handheld chemical analysis device designed by physicists

Engineering

A new handheld device that uses the power of magnetic resonance imagery and mass spectrometry to chemically analyse objects is being designed by researchers.

Physicists from Australian National University have proven the concept of a diamond-based quantum device that functions similarly to science-fiction equipment such as the sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who and the tricorder from Star Trek.

“A new handheld device is being designed by researchers that will offer the capability to perform a chemical analysis of different objects.“

It will use tiny defects in a diamond to measure the mass and chemical composition of molecules with advanced quantum techniques, based on those currently utilised in atomic clocks and gravitational wave detectors.

Such a device could be used, for example, to weigh and identify complex molecules such as proteins, helping users to gain new insights into disease mechanisms and find new cures. It also has applications in environmental and biosecurity research.

Based on the success of the proof-of-concept study, the team is now looking to develop a working prototype.

Dr Marcus Doherty from Australian National University said: "Laboratories and hospitals will have the power to do full chemical analyses to solve complex problems with our device that they can afford and move around easily."

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