Renewal and upgrade of the 500 MHz NMR spectrometer of the School of Chemistry NMR facility

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: College of Science and Engineering


Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a powerful experimental technique used in many branches of chemistry, biology and physics. It provides a wealth of information about molecules, their interactions and organisation in materials. In particular, solution-state NMR has established itself as the leading analytical technique used on an everyday basis by organic and inorganic chemists. NMR is used to follow the progress of chemical syntheses, culminating with a detailed characterisation of the final products. NMR is also the method of choice for physical organic chemists in studies of reaction mechanisms, reaction kinetics and the conformation of molecules. Significant contributions have been made in NMR-based characterisation of complex mixtures of small organic molecule such as metabolites, various natural environment matrices (water, soil, and air), food and beverages. NMR is also indispensable in the design and development of drugs by pharmaceuticals industry. Access to a well-equipped NMR laboratory is thus essential to researchers across physical and life sciences.

As all organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, these atoms are the most frequently studied by NMR. Nevertheless, recent years have seen an upsurge in the studies of molecules containing other abundant nuclei, such as boron, fluorine, aluminium, silicon, phosphorus, or selenium, referred to generally as X nuclei. 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 the most abundant resources, replacing the rare elements often used as catalysts of chemical reactions.

Our NMR facility already supports researchers in the School of Chemistry and more widely across the University of Edinburgh and other Scottish universities. We consider it essential and timely that these renewed and augmented capabilities are provided as a place-based investment to enable both the areas of research noted above and important emerging research in other disciplines across the EPSRC remit. Through this investment we are replacing parts of one of our aging NMR spectrometers to provide capabilities to study the above listed p block nuclei and other X nuclei such as lithium, gallium, manganese, cadmium or lanthanum with the highest possible sensitivity and over an extended temperature range. Enhanced X nuclei capabilities will enable science not currently possible, increase the scale and ambition of the research that can be undertaken, bringing new understanding of often complex composition of reaction intermediates, guiding the design of future molecules and catalysts to open up sustainable new routes to novel valuable compounds. The high sensitivity of this instrument will accelerate the research cycle from bench to publication, both for X nuclei and overall by increasing throughput across the facility for researchers focusing on more traditional carbon and hydrogen containing molecules.


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