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Surprising Science

Ion Flow

New research in quantum measurement could reveal ion flow through cell membranes in an important scientific discovery.

“Quantum measurement could reveal ion flow through cell membranes,” reports Technology review. “A unique type of nanodiamond could measure the flow of ions through an ion channel with unprecedented accuracy. Ion channels play a crucial role in the workings of all living cells. The channels are proteins embedded in the cell membrane that act like pores, allowing certain kinds of molecules and ions to pass through while blocking others.” But while researchers have devoted a lot of time to working out how they function, the results have not always been conclusive. But a new idea is casting hope. The idea is based on how fast electron spins decohere in a nitrogen atom inside a nanodiamond. Scientists want to “place the nanodiamand on the tip of an atomic force microscope and move it to within a hair’s breadth of an ion channel in a cell membrane. The electron spins in the nitrogen vacancy are then set in a particular state by zapping them with a sequence of microwave pulses.”


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