The interest in small and quasi-spherical diamond particles of few nanometers in size with narrow particle size distribution is growing rapidly over the past few years. To a large extent it is driven by promising discoveries in their applications. Biomedical applications of fluorescent nanodiamonds including cell imaging, drug delivery systems, and optically detected magnetic resonance are most exciting. NV centers in nanodiamond bring about a promise of NMR measurements of a single biomolecule in vivo in the near future. Recent developments in drug delivery systems using the primary particles of detonation nanodiamond (PPDN) as a platform, is another driving force. Besides biomedical applications, nanodiamonds are intensely developed for composites, lubrication, chromatography, and many other applications. Several companies in the USA, Europe, and Asia are closely involved in the research and commercial development of this nanomaterial.
The progress in novel applications and commercialization of nanodiamond requires a better fundamental understanding and developing robust, economically viable ways to manipulate the structure and chemistry of this material at the nano-scale. Many challenges still remain to be overcome. For example, we are still unable to prepare analytically acceptable standard sample of PPDN or draw precise picture of its surface structure. With surface-to-volume atomic ratio as high as 20 %, the surface of single diamond nanoparticles plays crucial role in essentially all aspects of this nanomaterial. In addition, techniques for purification and modification of the nanoparticles are significantly different from those traditionally used for molecules. The differences are in part due to the fact that the nanoparticles are not uniform and may slightly differ from each other in composition and/or size. On the other hand, the mechanisms of reactions at the surface of nanoparticles as small as 3 nm may differ from the reactions in solutions or on largely flat surfaces.
The advantages of nanodiamonds are unique: their cores are believed to hold high crystallinity and chemical inertness of bulk diamond while providing fully accessible and highly reactive surface. Thus, nanodiamond satisfies requirements to a modern material, providing strength, robustness, and stability, as well as many options for chemical surface modification, tailoring its properties, and combining it with other materials.