December 1, 2023

Scientists Discover Surprising Applications of Nanodiamonds

A physical chemist and a diverse group of his students are dealing with applications with nanoscopic diamonds.
Diamonds represent so much more to Abraham Wolcott than glistening gems and status signs. The physical chemist at San Jose State University deals with nanodiamonds, which are tiny diamonds produced by breaking apart bigger artificial diamonds. Nanodiamonds are so small that a row of 8,000 of them would span the breadth of a human hair.
What can a scientist like Wolcott accomplish with such tiny gems? In fact, rather a bit.

Diamonds represent so much more to Abraham Wolcott than glowing gems and status symbols. Wolcotts group was amongst the first to try out the TES when it was put into service. Wolcotts research group in San Jose is working to connect different chemical groups to the surface area of the nanodiamonds. Cheung states she was at first interested in Wolcotts laboratory because she had heard he enabled freshmen to join his group– and she truly wanted to sign up with a laboratory. According to his students, leaping into experiments quickly after joining is often the standard procedure in the Wolcott lab.

The carbon matrix of a diamond makes it safe to utilize in living cells and tissues, which are mostly carbon. Diamonds are also chemically inert, proficient at carrying heat, and optically transparent– suggesting light travel through them easily, according to Wolcott In short, their chemical residential or commercial properties make them valuable for a variety of applications, varying from real-time detection of protein synthesis to quantum computing– while Wolcott adds that the technology is still in its early phases.
However theres another thing that makes Wolcotts research on nanodiamonds stand out: His lab is distinct because undergraduate and masters trainees at San Jose State University (SJSU) do the bulk of the research study, a task that is frequently reserved for more skilled investigators such as college students, post-doctoral scientists, and full-time laboratory specialists. “Theres no more amazing group of people to do research study with than the trainees that Ive had the pleasure to deal with at San Jose State,” he says.
San Jose State University students Cynthia Melendrez, Camron Stokes, Jorge Lopez-Rosas and Tsz Megan Cheung were coauthors on a recent study of nanodiamonds that gathered data at SSRL. Credit: Abraham Wolcott.
A scientists finest good friend
Regardless of what you may have found out in high school chemistry about diamonds being pure carbon, Wolcott is more interested in what other elements are doing both inside and outside his nanodiamonds.
He says when nitrogen atoms get trapped within a diamonds carbon lattice, this pollutant creates an open area, called the nitrogen vacancy center, where a carbon atom need to be. When this center is struck with green light, it releases red light, and researchers can then rely on that glow to trace the nanodiamonds as they move throughout an organism.
Whether theyre flowing through a fiber or the blood stream optic cable, in order to get the diamonds to do what you desire them to, “you require to be able to manage their surface,” says Wolcott. “And thats where my lab focuses most of its energy.”
SSRLs shift edge sensing unit (TES) helped the scientists research study amines and other particles arranged on the diamond lattice below. Wolcotts group was amongst the very first to experiment with the TES when it was taken into service. Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Wolcotts research study group in San Jose is working to connect different chemical groups to the surface of the nanodiamonds. Previously this year, they published a paper in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters on developing a stable chain reaction to attach nitrogen-containing chemical groups called amines to the surface area of the nanodiamonds by first chemically coaxing bromine atoms onto the surface. The discoveries, which the researchers state might be useful for studying biological systems or in quantum sensors, are also being patented for their prospective applications in nanotechnology.
Cheung states she was at first interested in Wolcotts laboratory because she had heard he allowed freshmen to join his group– and she really desired to join a lab. According to his students, jumping into experiments quickly after signing up with is frequently the standard procedure in the Wolcott laboratory.
Cheung states a few of her groups chemical procedures can use up to five days to finish, which presents a possible logistical obstacle since undergrads are typically busy with classes and arent anticipated to be in laboratory full-time. She says clear communication is crucial on the group. The trainees coordinate their schedules with one another and work through the response like a multi-day assembly line until the response is total.
Nanodiamonds at the beamline
After trying to chemically attach different particles to the surface area of the nanodiamonds, Wolcotts students require a method to evaluate whether their responses achieved success. For this, they take their chemically-treated nanodiamonds to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) at the Department of Energys SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
The synchrotron functions as a “big factory to produce extreme X-ray beams,” states staff engineer Sang-Jun Lee. As electrons speed through the synchrotrons storage ring, super-strong magnets cause the beam of particles to wiggle, producing powerful X-rays that are funneled into speculative stations at each beamline. At Beam Line 10-1, an instrument called a transition edge sensor (TES) measures the X-rays coming out of the experimental sample with such great resolution they can reveal the electronic structure of a compound– that is, patterns in the way its electrons are energetically set up– says Lee. In the case of the nanodiamonds, TES can discover which chemical groups exist on the surface area of the diamond.
Wolcott was amongst the first pilot users of TES when it was commissioned in 2016– it was like the “science variation of test-driving a Ferrari,” he recalls– and his trainees have been consistent users since, coming a few times a year, says Lee.
Wolcotts students Tsz Megan Cheng, Camron X. Stokes, and Jorge Lopez-Rosas discuss their research at SSRLs Beam Line 8-2. Credit: Abraham Wolcott
For a lot of Wolcotts students, even just setting foot on SLACs school is remarkable. But they also get hands-on time at the beamline.
” It wasnt that we were just shadowing and seeing other researchers do the chemistry,” states Cynthia Melendrez, a current SJSU chemical engineering graduate and very first author of the labs newest study. “It was extraordinary to be able to enter into SSRL and really do the experiments.”
Cheung concurs: “Its difficult to explain. You have to physically exist to feel the feeling of what a nationwide lab resembles.”
According to Lee, who has dealt with Wolcott and his trainees at the beamline, finding out the ropes isnt easy for first-time users, and training undergraduates to utilize the beamline is particularly uncommon. Lee states, Wolcotts students have been able to do it– whether by composing programs to run the beamline immediately or by taking eight-hour-long night shifts to optimize the work they can get done during their long-awaited beamtime.
Camron Stokes, who just recently graduated from SJSU with a degree in physics, was among the students working the beamlines graveyard shift. As a physics significant, Stokes admits he was at first apprehensive about joining Wolcotts chemistry laboratory.
Getting to work at SSRL was “like a dream come true,” he says. After getting a crash course in TES troubleshooting and working through the night to keep things running smoothly, he still got a sense of the magical sensation of being alone with TES at night.
You really get a possibility
Stokes credits his self-confidence and sense of ownership over his research study to Wolcotts mentorship. “Its not simply that the research study is great,” he says. “You really get an opportunity.”
In recognition of his nanodiamond work, Stokes was recently provided an award from the American Chemical Societys Division of Colloids and Surface Science and will provide a welcomed talk at the national meeting of the ACS in Chicago in August 2022.
Lots of people presume undergrads do not know sufficient or arent experienced enough to do research, states Meléndrez, who is now a science and engineering partner at SLACs LCLS. “But the leap of faith that Dr. Wolcott had [when I was] a freshman was pretty neat.”
Wolcott notes that lots of SJSU students are first-generation college trainees and deal with a host of challenging life situations while continuing to support their families and go to school. For many, the effort of attempting to keep a unified research study program running while handling undergraduate schedules and these additional difficulties may not be worth it.
” You could have lowered expectations, and assume, You know, what, Im going to make the project easy, since thats what they can manage,” states Wolcott. “I would think about that to be deficit thinking.”
” To do good science– to do real science– with those kinds of obstacles,” he states, “thats truly what makes it special.”
SSRL is a DOE Office of Science user center.
Referral: “Metastable Brominated Nanodiamond Surface Enables Room Temperature and Catalysis-Free Amine Chemistry” by Cynthia Melendrez, Jorge A. Lopez-Rosas, Camron X. Stokes, Tsz Ching Cheung, Sang-Jun Lee, Charles James Titus, Jocelyn Valenzuela, Grace Jeanpierre, Halim Muhammad, Polo Tran, Perla Jasmine Sandoval, Tyanna Supreme, Virginia Altoe, Jan Vavra, Helena Raabova, Vaclav Vanek, Sami Sainio, William B. Doriese, Galen C. ONeil, Daniel S. Swetz, Joel N. Ullom, Kent Irwin, Dennis Nordlund, Petr Cigler and Abraham Wolcott, 27 January 2022, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.DOI: 10.1021/ acs.jpclett.1 c04090.