New NMR Equipment Adds X Nuclei and 19F Capabilities

Christmas has come early for the School of Chemistry NMR Facility with the delivery of two new pieces of advanced equipment.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique used in many branches of chemistry, biology and physics to study the structure and dynamics of molecules.

The School of Chemistry (SoC) NMR facility provides world-class NMR equipment and expertise to researchers across the University’s physical science, medicine and vet schools as well as more widely across Scotland. NMR is an essential technique for many researchers making major contributions to physical sciences, healthcare, and sustainability challenges, and for significant amounts of collaborative research with industry.

The facility’s focus on liquid state NMR spectroscopy is complemented by solid-state expertise at EaStCHEM partner, St Andrews University, ensuring that Scottish researchers have access to a particularly broad range of advanced NMR capabilities.

Now, the facility’s capabilities have been further enhanced with the addition of two sensitive new cryoprobes, which give researchers access to detailed information on X nuclei and 19F, opening up a wide range of exciting new research areas.

The ability to study X nuclei supports the School of Chemistry’s extensive new research directions into earth abundant p-block elements such as 10/11B, 13C, 27Al, 29Si, 31P and 77Se. Breakthroughs in this area are revealing new insights into chemical bonding, new forms of catalysis, and ultimately will generate the future chemistry needed to produce a sustainable chemical industry that utilises these most abundant natural resources.

Fluorine is an important element used in the design of bioactive molecules, occurring in approximately 20% of pharmaceuticals and up to 35% of agrochemicals currently on the market. Due to the almost complete absence of organic fluorine in nature, 19F NMR is an excellent tool for studies of biological and environmental systems with 19F incorporated. The new 19F cryoprobe is the most sensitive and versatile probe for such studies – a direction being pursued by a number of research groups in the SoC and Scotland.  

The upgrade includes two Bruker Smart Nitrogen Liquefiers for recycling of the liquid N2 required to cool the NMR magnet. This will save 77,000 L of liquid N2 over a 15-year lifetime, which would otherwise have to be produced at high energy cost. The NMR facility, led by Facility Manager, Mr Juraj Bella, previously pioneered Helium recovery in UK NMR labs, and continues to drive towards increased sustainability across its activities. They are now in the process of procuring He liquefaction equipment that will reduce the use of this irreplaceable natural resource by 90%.

I am thrilled to be able to assist my colleagues in utilising these valuable resources to advance the research at the SoC, as well as across the wider community of Scottish scientists.

Prof Dušan Uhrín, academic lead of the NMR facility

We are very grateful to funding from EPSRC, BBSRC, and the School of Chemistry for supporting these upgrades.

NMR christmas