Following Polymer Degradation with Nanodiamond Magnetometry

Runrun Li, Thea Vedelaar, Aldona Mzyk, Aryan Morita, Sandeep Kumar Padamati, Romana Schirhagl*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
117 Downloads (Pure)


Degradable polymers are widely used in the biomedical fields due to non-toxicity and great biocompatibility and biodegradability, and it is crucial to understand how they degrade. These polymers are exposed to various biochemical media in medical practice. Hence, it is important to precisely follow the degradation of the polymer in real time. In this study, we made use of diamond magnetometry for the first time to track polymer degradation with nanoscale precision. The method is based on a fluorescent defect in nanodiamonds, which changes its optical properties based on its magnetic surrounding. Since optical signals can be read out more sensitively than magnetic signals, this method allows unprecedented sensitivity. We used a specific mode of diamond magnetometry called relaxometry or T1 measurements. These are sensitive to magnetic noise and thus can detect paramagnetic species (gadolinium in this case). Nanodiamonds were incorporated into polylactic acid (PLA) films and PLA nanoparticles in order to follow polymer degradation. However, in principle, they can be incorporated into other polymers too. We found that T1 constants decreased gradually with the erosion of the film exposed to an alkaline condition. In addition, the mobility of nanodiamonds increased, which allows us to estimate polymer viscosity. The degradation rates obtained using this approach were in good agreement with data obtained by quartz crystal microbalance, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-130
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number1
Early online date4-Jan-2022
Publication statusPublished - 28-Jan-2022


  • magnetometry
  • nanodiamonds
  • nitrogen vacancy center
  • polymer degradation
  • relaxometry


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