NIST researchers are working on the development of "nano-thermometers" capable of taking microscopic-scale measurements throughout an opaque three-dimensional volume — including the human body — by altering their magnetic properties: Thermal MagIC.
Thermal MagIC, the team at NIST explains, works through nanometre-sized objects which change magnetic field properties according to temperature. By incorporating these objects into materials, voxel data made up of three-dimensional readings of the temperature throughout the object can be gathered - and with ten times the precision of the current state of the art, in a tenth of the time, in a volume up to 10,000 times smaller.
The team claims their research could revolutionise temperature measurements for biology, medicine, chemical synthesis, refrigeration, automotive, plastic and other material production — or, as NIST physicist Cindi Dennis puts it, "pretty much anywhere temperature plays a critical role - and that's everywhere."
"This is a big enough sea change that we expect that if we can develop it — and we have confidence that we can — other people will take it and really run with it and do things that we currently can’t imagine."
In Thermal MagIC's initial incarnation, it targets a temperature range of 200 to 400 Kelvin — around -99 to 260 degrees Fahrenheit. In the future, though, that range could be expanded from 4-600 Kelvin — covering temperatures encountered from work involving supercooled superconductors to molten lead.
The team has finished the lab in which its experiments will take place, and has published a paper on the work in the International Journal on Magnetic Particle Imaging under open-access terms.