NIST Unveils Thermal MagIC, Promises Nanoscale Three-Dimensional Temperature Measurements

Tiny nanoscale sensors incorporated in everything from plastics to refrigerants could allow for high-accuracy, wireless, 3D measurements.

Gareth Halfacree
6 days ago β€’ Sensors
The system allows researchers to pinpoint the temperature at any part of the object. (πŸ“·: NIST)

NIST researchers are working on the development of "nano-thermometers" capable of taking microscopic-scale measurements throughout an opaque three-dimensional volume β€” including the human body β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” and we have confidence that we can β€” 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 β€” around -99 to 260 degrees Fahrenheit. In the future, though, that range could be expanded from 4-600 Kelvin β€” 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.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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