Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Rough Diamonds
05 July 2018

Rough Diamonds

These pink diamonds each have a flaw; their 'truncated octahedral' shape might be snubbed by jewellers, but then again, they’re also 25 times smaller than engagement ring stones. Looking more like a handful for red sand by eye, they’re being used to improve magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Normally, MRI relies on huge magnets to temporarily align or polarise the direction or spin of particles inside the human body – differences across these patterns recreate a picture of living tissues. These deformed diamonds can be polarised in a lab without large magnets, then – as odd as it may sound – injected directly into human tissues, acting as a contrast agent to boost MRI signals. Transferring their polarised properties to their surroundings, powdered diamonds could also help to prepare cheaper liquids, like water, for use in MRI – reducing the need for bulky, expensive magnets and making MRI more portable and affordable around the world.

Written by John Ankers

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