A National Network for Applications of High-Field NMR in the Life and Physical Sciences

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a very powerful technique used in many fields of physical and life sciences, including all branches of chemistry, material sciences and biology. It provides wealth of information about (bio)molecules in solution and materials and insoluble molecules in solid state.

Increasing the operating frequency of NMR spectrometers leads to higher sensitivity and resolution. Both are required when working with small (tens of micrograms) amounts of sample, or with large biomacromolecules (proteins, DNA, carbohydrates). Similarly, and especially for some nuclei, solid- state NMR accrues additional benefits at higher frequencies. There are therefore instances where only high-field spectrometers can solve a particular problem.

However, very-high field and ultra-high field spectrometers come at a cost, largely associated with the development and production of their superconducting magnets. It is therefore imperative that such instrumentation is used efficiently through sharing by many research groups. Modern NMR spectrometers are versatile pieces of equipment that can be customised to tackle a range of samples, so sharing across disciplines and applications (e.g. liquid- vs solid-state) is possible.

Spectroscopists from across the UK working in a wide-range of scientific disciplines have therefore agreed to work towards a coordinated strategy for sharing very-high and ultra-high field NMR equipment to underpin fundamental and applied sciences in a wide range of areas, ranging from battery and solar panel research, enzyme catalysis, drug discovery, food security, understanding disease or characterisation of environmental matrices. By sharing technologically advanced methodologies, the impact on the UK society will be maximised, both in the academia and industry, thus contributing to the UK economic viability and overall well-being.

As part of this strategy, Scottish NMR researchers representing all Scottish universities and the CRUK Beatson Institute, have decided to establish Scottish High Field (SHF) NMR Centre around the upgraded 800 MHz NMR spectrometer housed in the SoC at UoE.

This upgrade will equip the spectrometer with up-to-date NMR capabilities for liquid- and solid-state experiments. This involves installation of two CryoProbes, MAS controller, high power 1H amplifier and three solid-state probes in Year 1, followed by the upgrade of the console in Year 3 to guarantee continued operation of the Centre beyond the duration of the grant.

Equipping this spectrometer with the latest technology and utilising the existing magnet is the most economical option that will fulfil our aim: to provide cutting edge support in liquid- and solid-state NMR to physical and life sciences researchers to deliver significant academic and industrial impact.

The measurement time on this upgraded 800-MHz liquids/solid-state NMR spectrometer will be shared between researchers from all Scottish universities, CRUK Beatson Institute and UoE researchers. Sustained operation of the Centre will be guaranteed by the financial support of participating institutions and umbrella organisations of life and chemical sciences in Scotland, SULSA and ScotCHEM. Importantly, the Centre will be operated by staff from all participating institutions.

Using the Centre as the focal point, a hub and spoke model will be used to manage access to the mid- to high-magnetic field NMR spectrometers in Scotland. This will optimise access to NMR equipment and facilitate access to ultra-high field spectrometers in England, foster day-to-day cooperation, ensure exchange of information and dissemination of best practise.

The SHF NMR Centre will transform the way high-field NMR is applied to chemistry, biology, environmental and material sciences in academia and industry. It will form a platform for interactions with other regional and national very-high field and ultra-high field UK NMR centres.

Planned Impact

In this proposal we aim to establish the Scottish High Field NMR Centre around the upgraded 800 MHz NMR instrument to strengthen the existing collaborations between individual laboratories. The Centre will operate in a hub and spoke mode for high field NMR in Scotland.

The impact of these changes will be significant as the Scottish High Field NMR Centre will

- bring new capabilities to Scottish researchers - in particular with the addition of solid-state NMR - and allow the investigations of large biomolecular assemblies, enhancing productivity and impact of their research.
- secure the much needed long term access to cutting edge NMR equipment by sustaining the operation of the laboratory for the next 10-12 years.
- bring substantial benefits to the operation of Scottish NMR laboratories through closer interdisciplinary collaboration, expertise sharing.
- guarantee access to the most suitable NMR equipment thus avoiding to need to duplicate specialised equipment in every laboratory. It therefore will have tangible economic benefits.

Our support for the NOMAD software package could provide a tipping point for its wider use in the NMR community and help the developers to realise their commercial ambitions. We strongly believe in this product, as it benefits all who come in contact with modern-day NMR laboratories: NMR personnel, NMR users and PIs. Their increase efficiencies, although difficult to put monetary value on at the moment, could be substantial.

In addition to everyday impact on the operation of NMR laboratories and the scientific outputs produced by their members, establishing the Scottish High Field NMR Centre will benefit numerous researchers who use NMR in their research and thus the impact they produce will be strengthen by the enhanced capability of our support.

As outlined in the Pathway to Impact, the important part of our impact strategy is a direct engagement with industry, SMEs in particular; we will facilitate the access to our equipment and expertise. We will thus directly contribute towards their economic success, strengthening their position in the competitive market and ultimately benefiting the UK economy.

Through our high-profile materials research we have engaged with international and local companies such as British Petroleum, Sasol and Cemex, contributing to the development of their products.

As many of our research themes are rooted in biological research, their ultimate impact will be in improved health and well-being of society. Examples of what we achieved in this area so far, are document in the Case for Support and include our engagement with Edinburgh Medical Imaging, Gemini Therapeutics, Invizius, or Ingenza.

Our environmental chemistry research will have impact on the quality of our environment and represents important societal impact.

Our coordinated efforts to educate future generations of NMR scientists and NMR users, will highly benefit their future careers, and thus contribute to their individual impact on the wealth and well-being of society. Our engagements with high-school students will encourage more to take part in this exciting and rewarding endeavour.


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Fraser HWL (2018) Order in disorder: solution and solid-state studies of [MM] wheels (M = Cr, Al; M = Ni, Zn). in Dalton transactions (Cambridge, England : 2003)

Description SHARPER NMR: fast and accurate analysis of molecules, reactions and processes
Amount £364,795 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S016139/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2018 
End 11/2021
Description IBioIC Glycomar PhD studentship 
Organisation GlycoMar
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We provide spectrometer time for structure elucidation of Glycomar products. We are developing software for carbohydrate sepctra analysis.
Collaborator Contribution This is a IBioIC studentship towards which Glycomar Ltd is contributing in cash and in kind.
Impact Structure determination of several polysaccharides (unpublished). Poster presentations on conferences.
Start Year 2016
Description Scottish Water EPSRC Case conversion studentship 
Organisation Scottish Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This is a Scottish Water/ EPSRC Case conversion studentship : "Molecular level characterisation of dissolved organic matter (DOM) for improved water treatment."
Collaborator Contribution Finantial support, provide samples and their partial characterisation
Impact Sampling and analysing water at different stages of the works treatment, reported to SW. Publication in preparation. Poster presentations at conferences.
Start Year 2016
Description Loan of a benchtop NMR spectrometer to the Forth Valley College in Falkirk and associated NMR training 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Our 60 MHz NMR spectrometer was lent for 1 month (April/May 2018) to the Forth Valley College in Falkirk to be used in their chemistry classes. My student has trained teachers how to use the spectrometer. We have received a positive feedback. Experience working with the spectrometer deepened the interest in NMR spectroscopy to be potentially used in monitoring the production in chemical industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018