A team of researchers from Osaka City University worked with international partners to create a reliable and precise microscope-based thermometer using quantum technology. The thermometer is so accurate that it’s able to measure the temperature of microscopic animals. The technology can detect temperature-dependent properties of quantum spins and fluorescent nanodiamonds.
Quantum sensing technology exploits the sensitivity of extremely fragile quantum systems to the surrounding environment. Seven years ago, researchers used a similar technique to quantify temperatures inside cultured cells. Still, the new technology can sense heat and temperature that are actively involved in biological processes.
To create the device, the research team decorated the surface of nanodiamonds with polymer structures and injected them into C. elegans nematode worms, which are one of the most popular model animals in biology. Researchers wanted to learn the basic healthy temperature of the worms. Once inside the creatures, the nanodiamonds moved quickly. However, the quantum the monitoring algorithm was able to track the nanodiamonds and steadily measured temperature.
Researchers induced a fever inside the worms by stimulating mitochondria with a pharmacological treatment, and the quantum thermometer successfully observed the temperature increase. Researchers say that it was “fascinating” to see the quantum technology works well with live animals.
One researcher said that the team never believed the temperature of tiny worms less than one millimeter in size could deviate from the norm, developing into a fever. Researchers say that the results of their tests are an important milestone that will guide the future direction of quantum sensing as it relates to biology. Researchers will continue to perfect and improve their technology in the future.