Zeolite catalysts are critical to generating the molecules that provide the building blocks of society’s energy and materials needs. Discerning a clear atomic-level picture of the active sites remains challenging for most current technologies, but here we show that solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (ssNMR) methods coupled with ultra-high magnetic field instruments, can and has provided extremely useful information for catalyst development.

Measurements performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory provide unique insight into molecular structure of next-generation catalysts for the production of the widely used industrial chemical, propene.

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are porous materials with high surface areas that can host a variety of different guest molecules, leading to applications in catalysis, drug delivery, chemical separation, fuel cells, and data storage. In order to design better MOFs, knowledge of their molecular-level structures is crucial. At the MagLab, the highest-field NMR spectrometer in the world was used to probe the complex structures of MOFs both "as built" and as they exist when other "guest" molecules are inserted inside the framework.

New insights challenge current understanding of how ion transport through some cell membranes works.

As head of nuclear magnetic resonance at the MagLab's Tallahassee headquarters, Rob Schurko hopes to expand capabilities and build new magnets.

Two MagLab teams tried marrying vastly different technologies to build a new type of magnet: the Series Connected Hybrid. Decades later, has the oddball pairing panned out?

Federal grant to fund new tools for biology research in high magnetic fields

Combining tremendous strength with a high-quality field, the MagLab’s newest instrument promises big advances in interdisciplinary research.

This week at the lab, a prosaic-looking box is being prepared to assume a very exciting job this summer as a key component to a scientific time machine.

Although researchers won't be able to use the approximately 4-foot-high box to travel to other eras, they will use it to get a tantalizing glimpse of science in the future.

Delivered to the lab last week from Switzerland, the "box" is in fact a one-of-a-kind console specifically designed and built by Bruker Corp. for a new, one-of-a-kind instrument, the MagLab's 36 tesla series connected hybrid (SCH) magnet. Due to come online in a few months, the SCH will offer the highest magnetic fields in the world for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) research. With an operating frequency of 1.5 gigahertz, it will be one and a half times stronger than any other NMR magnet, said Ilya Litvak, who is coordinating the NMR instrumentation for the new magnet.

The MagLab already has numerous magnets for NMR, used to study the structure of molecules by interacting with the nuclei of atoms such as hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. What's special about the new magnet is that, operating at 1.5 gigahertz, it will allow scientists to efficiently target so-called "low-gamma" nuclei such as oxygen, which are too hard to see at conventional NMR field strengths, opening up a whole new frontier for scientific exploration.

"In the two areas where structure is important, biological research and materials, you have a lot of oxygen," said Litvak. "Currently, scientists cannot use oxygen in NMR efficiently."

A Bruker engineer is testing the new console with another magnet while construction on the SCH magnet is completed. In NMR experiments, the console receives and records the signals sent to it by the probe, which holds the sample inside the magnet.

Text by Kristen Coyne, photo by Stephen Bilenky.

This week at the lab, MagLab engineer Jason Kitchen is soldering into place capacitors smaller than a grain of rice to build a one-of-a-kind probe destined for a very large one-of-a-kind magnet.

The magnet in question is the series connected hybrid magnet due to be commissioned this summer at the MagLab. The 36 tesla instrument will generate world-record magnetic fields that will be used primarily for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments.

Kitchen is helping to build three probes that scientists will use to insert their specimens — including biological samples such as proteins and material samples such as lithium electrolytes to research better batteries — into the magnet.

Kitchen is currently at work on a cross polarization magic angle spinning probe that will spin biological samples inside the magnet at almost 40,000 times a second. He is building a set of tuning cards that can be quickly inserted and removed from the probe, allowing scientists to easily change from studying one combination of isotopes to another during experiments. This work involves painstakingly soldering teeny radio frequency components onto small PC boards and testing them to make sure they are in the exact spot that will produce the clearest signal for the scientist.

"When a chemist wants to change the probe to work at different frequencies, it's just a simple matter for us to slide in two tuning cards," said Kitchen.

Photo and text by Kristen Coyne.

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