Research activities

This Diamond Lab focuses on the development and application of diamond nanoprobes for biological applications.

This novel and promising technology exploits the unique properties of negatively-charged Nitrogen-Vacancy centers in diamond. The spin-dependent fluorescence of NV centers makes it possible to perform ultrahigh-sensitivity magnetometry experiments, thus probing cellular activity and microenvironment with unprecedented accuracy and resolution. Our laboratory develops and deploys new methods and diamond-based materials for optically detected NMR, optical pumping for NMR enhancement, and direct measurement of time-varying magnetic fields in living cells and tissues.


Imaging nanoprobes

Novel imaging probes represent a promising development in medical imaging, exploiting recent technological advances that make it possible to manipulate matter at the nano-scale and to assemble hybrid nanostructures that combine natural and artificial elements. A long-term goal of this laboratory is the development of brain-penetrant MR imaging agents that sense directly neuronal activity, as opposed to the indirect detection of the down-stream effects of neural activation on brain hemodynamics.

  • Antonio Miotello, University of Trento


The Optically Detected MR lab has a number of coherent sources of various wavelengths and powers, including a Coherent Verdi V5 laser for the excitation of fluorescent signals in nanodiamonds and other materials. Moreover, the laboratory is equipped with a Nikon Eclipse T1 fluorescence microscope, and a Nicolet iS50 FT-IR infrared spectrofotometer. For sample preparation and characterization, we have access to state-of-the-art nanofabrication facilities at the IIT headquarters in Genova.


Principal investigator

Angelo Bifone

Angelo Bifone received a University degree from the University of Rome (Italy) in 1990, and a doctoral degree in Physics from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa (Italy) in 1995. He conducted postdoctoral research in Berkeley (CA, USA) and Leiden (The Netherlands). From 1996 until 2001 he held the position of Lecturer in Magnetic Resonance Physics at the Institute of Cancer research of the University of London (UK). From 2001 until 2010 he was the director of the Neuroimaging Department of the Glaxo-Smith Kline Medicines Research Center in Verona (Italy). In 2010 he joined the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia as a Tenured Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems. Angelo Bifone expertise is in the area of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging as applied to the study of brain function and disfunction. His group has pioneered pharmacological MRI methods to study the effects of drug intervention on brain functional activity and connectivity. His current research interests include the study of brain connectivity using graph representation and complex network analysis. Angelo Bifone published ca. 100 peer-reviewed papers in top-tier international journals, including Neuron, Nature Neuroscience and PNAS; he was awarded the Sapio Prize for MRI in 2004.