A nanoscale defect in diamonds just might be the precious stone's greatest asset. The defect in question is called a nitrogen vacancy (NV) center. And what it does is measure magnetic fields incredibly precisely.
An NV is caused when a nitrogen atom exists in a diamond instead of a carbon atom — right next to a spot where another carbon atom is missing. In such a case, a number of electrons are left un-bonded in the vacant space. These electrons are thus free to be affected by magnetic fields, electricity and light. By reading and altering the spinning of these electrons with a laser, scientists can obtain all manner of sensory data.
What that means is that tiny diamond chips whose state is being read by lasers could someday make up tiny, incredibly accurate clocks and gyroscopes — and maybe even quantum computers.
What's more, NVs are one of the most common defects in diamonds and can even be manufactured. So there's not going to be a run on diamond stocks world-wide when NV computing takes off. Which might be a little while yet. Though a team of scientists has recently made a leap forward in reading data stored in NVs, the creation of a practical quantum computer based on diamonds is still in the future. A future full of tiny bright, twinkling gadgets for all.