11 April 2016

New probes for new magnet

The cross polarization magic angle spinning probe. The cross polarization magic angle spinning probe. Kristen Coyne

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.

Last modified on 11 April 2016