Scientists at Harvard University have created the world's smallest 'camera' - a diamond lattice that manipulates a single electron to turn a carbon atom into a sensitive magnetic probe.

The research, published in Nature, found that 'flawed' diamonds (where nitrogen replaces a carbon atom) can turn into highly sensitive sensors when exposed to laser light.

The new sensor could revolutionise atomic-scale imaging, benefiting fields ranging from materials science and spintronics to structural biology, neuroscience, and biomedicine. For instance, it could speed up the development of quantum computing, the process of using single electrons and nuclei to store and process information.

Official: small is beautiful

"Although existing magnetic field sensors have higher sensitivity, they probe magnetic fields over large volumes of space," says Mikhail Lukin, professor of physics at Harvard. "The combination of excellent sensitivity and nanoscale spatial resolution that we demonstrate is completely unique. Potentially, it may allow one to image single nuclei in individual molecules."

Which kind of puts your average digicam's macro mode into perspective.