A team of researchers at IBM has developed a new way to measure the magnetic field of individual atoms that offers 1000 times the energy resolution of conventional techniques. In their paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team describes their approach, how well it works and their hope that they will be able to modify it in such a way as to allow others with less specialized hardware to use it.
Scientists are eager to better measure the magnetic fields of individual atoms because they believe it will lead to a better understanding of material and biological interactions—most particularly those involving weak magnetic interactions. Current methods rely on using defects in diamonds, though the team at IBM notes that prior work at their lab shows that it is possible to measure weak interactions in another way, an approach described as challenging. In this new effort, the team has come up with a way to get the job done that is relatively simple, though, they note, it requires special hardware.