Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Mind Blown

Art of diamond and glass inspires high-performance diamond sensors in conventional glass fibres

05 September 2020

Mind Blown

Art is easy to spot in science – nature’s patterns are everywhere, but every so often a meeting of open minds champions the science in art. In this sculpture, Australian artist and glassblower Karen Cunningham traps coloured particles inside molten glass, shaping patterns in light. Her ideas also captured the imagination of local scientists, leading to an exciting collaboration. Tiny defects in diamond nanoparticles make them good at sensing changes in natural magnetic fields, but they’re also fragile and a little awkward to use – usually they need pinpointing under a microscope with laser light. Yet Cunningham’s techniques are able to encapsulate and protect the diamond dust inside a glass fibre – her sculpture is effectively a prototype for a giant sensing probe. Light transmitted through similar (but much smaller) glass fibres might one day carry information about fluctuating magnetic fields during brain scans and other biomedical imaging.

Written by John Ankers

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