EPSRC Core Equip 2022 - Enhancing NMR Excellence

Project: Research council

Project Details

Description

This proposal will fund a refresh and enhancement of one of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometers within the Material and Chemical Characterisation (MC2) Core Research Facility at Bath. NMR is a crucial analytical tool for the characterisation of a diverse range of samples, including polymers, novel drug candidates, new catalysts and a wide variety of biological materials. There are currently seven NMR spectrometers supporting research at Bath. One is the focal point of the Dynamic Reaction Monitoring (DReaM) suite, commissioned in 2017. Two are advanced level instruments used in 'hands-on' mode by experienced users investigating complex research problems, and these have benefitted from significant refresh programmes over the past three years. Lastly, but crucially, there are four open-access workhorse instruments, which account for 63% of our total NMR usage. These instruments are the first port of call for most researchers and are used to analyse many thousands of samples on a 24/7 basis, providing rapid, high-quality data. This mix of NMR spectrometers is crucial to enabling the wide range of experiments and techniques required by the diverse user-base within MC2, and underpins many cross-disciplinary collaborative projects both within and between the Faculties of Science, and Engineering & Design.

The focus of this proposal is to refresh one of the two oldest of these core underpinning open-access instruments; both of which were installed in 2010, and are fast approaching end of life. These two instruments no longer provide cutting-edge or efficient NMR experiments, and only operate at half the sensitivity of modern equivalents. Major issues have been experienced on both aged instruments since August 2021, causing significant (often daily) delays in data acquisition and a repeated need for intervention from MC2 staff to restore functionality. Instrument Specialist time is currently focussed on keeping the instruments serviceable, time which could be better spent developing methods, engaging with new users and accelerating research. What makes this request increasingly urgent is that manufacturer support and the associated supply of spare parts are not guaranteed beyond 2024.

Even though these two instruments have become increasingly unreliable, they still remain essential to our user base - in the last year alone they have been used to obtain data from more than 15,000 experiments. Over the past five years these two instruments have been a critical tool for researchers from 43 research groups from the Departments of Chemistry and Life Sciences, and the Faculty of Engineering & Design, totalling over 170 users. The loss of one or both of these instruments would have a devastating impact on the delivery of this research and the capacity of the NMR service as a whole.

We intend to refresh the most important and highest specification of these spectrometers (500 MHz) by replacing the console (which provides the electronics to run the experiments), adding the latest generation of NMR probe (the component that acquires the experimental data) and installing a new sample changer (which can hold up to 60 samples at a given time). We will retain the existing NMR magnet, purchased in 2010, as this has can be expected to be viable for at least 15 more years, and align with our environmental sustainability aims.

This approach offers a value for money upgrade to maintain state of the art core NMR instrumentation at Bath, and not only meets our immediate requirements but also greatly enhances sample sensitivity and capability. We expect to double the sensitivity of the instrument, which in itself will reduce acquisition times. We will also be able to implement new experimental strategies, such as acquiring data on two experiments simultaneously. Thus the new technology will significantly increase sample turnaround and throughput, and allow for data to be obtained on samples that are currently not possible.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date3/01/232/07/24

Funding

  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Chemical measurement
  • Analytical Science
  • Chemical Structure

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