Hemozoin Detection using Nitrogen-Vacancy centers in Diamond

Advances in chemistry, biology and medicine have been historically promoted by physical tools, with notable examples x-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and microscopy. A new physical tool has recently emerged as a unique electromagnetic-field sensor and it is based on the exploitation of the remarkable magneto-optic properties of one particular color center in diamond, known as the Nitrogen-Vanancy (NV) center. In recent years, nano-scale sensors using NV centers have enabled the detection of nanoscale ensembles of nuclear and/or electron spins, and high-resolution imaging of living cells, to name few of the most outstanding sensing demonstrations using NV centers. We propose the development and implementation of a high-throughput sensor utilizing NV centers in diamonds, for the sensitive, quantitative and rapid detection of ensembles of paramagnetic spins in liquids and crystals. Sensitive paramagnetic-spin sensors will enable the possibility for nanoscale sensing and imaging of the structure and electron configuration of biomolecules, and most importantly, of real-time observations of chemical and biological processes. The principal motivation for the proposed project is the implementation of the developed sensor for the detection of paramagnetic crystals, and in particular of synthetic hemozoin crystals. Synthetic hemozoin crystals have identical magneto-optic properties with naturally-grown hemozoin crystals, a byproduct of malaria infection. A label-free, high-throughput sensor of hemozoin crystals, with sensitivity limits better than the currently used malaria diagnostic techniques will pave the way for a new diagnostic tool that could be used for the early diagnosis of malaria, and therefore, contribute to the eradication of one of the deadliest diseases in the world.

Hemozoin crystals (HzC) are the byproduct of malaria infection. The Plasmodium parasite, the agent of malaria, during its intraerythrocytic cycle digests hemoglobin and releases heme which is highly toxic for itself. Detoxification is achieved by the transformation of heme into an iron-containing porphyrin crystal, namely the HzC. HzC have characteristic magnetic and optical properties distinct from any other component of blood. At present, there is a large need for a new diagnostic method that will allow the rapid and definitive diagnosis of infected, asymptomatic, cases that remain undetectable by the currently used field methods. Our approach is to develop a novel sensor employing Nitrogen-Vacancy (NV) centers in diamonds for the sensitive, quantitative, and rapid detection of HzC.


  1. Wickenbrock, A., Zheng, H., Bougas, L., Leefer, N., Afach, S., Jarmola, A., … & Budker, D. (2016). Microwave-free magnetometry with nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond. Applied Physics Letters, 109(5), 053505. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4960171
  2. Chatzidrosos, G., Wickenbrock, A., Bougas, L., Leefer, N., Wu, T., Jensen, K., … & Budker, D. (2017). Miniature cavity-enhanced diamond magnetometer. Physical Review Applied, 8(4), 044019. arXiv


EC – European Commission
Project Number: 709192
Date: 01/04/2016 → 31/03/2018
Funding type: MSCA-IF-EF-ST – Standard EF
MC Fellow: Dr. Lykourgos Bougas