19 November 2015

Cell phone technology makes for versatile NMR probes

Inspired by the SIM card technology used in modern cell phones, MagLab engineers designed and built a versatile magnet probe that makes it easier and more efficient for scientists to see the structure of molecules.

What did scientists discover?

We all know that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an important way to visualize the hidden structure of the human body using radio frequency signals and strong magnets. A related powerful technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) maps the hidden structure of molecules. New technology developed at the MagLab allows investigators to switch quickly and easily between the radio frequency channels of various chemical elements (hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, etc.) in proteins and other molecules under study. The switch is as simple as changing one or more plug-in circuit boards.


This research was conducted in the 800 MHz 63 mm NMR magnet at the MagLab's NMR Facility.

Why is this important?

Until now, these electronics required using larger magnets to provide space for the bulky switchable circuits, or settling for lower sensitivity of the spectrometer. However, using new materials and techniques developed initially for the military and mobile telephone industry, scientists working at the MagLab's NMR Facility can now switch quickly from mapping the distances between carbon and nitrogen atoms in a protein to studying the lithium in rechargeable batteries.

Who did the research?

The team, all from the MagLab and Florida State University, included: P.L. Gor'kov, J.A. Kitchen and W.W. Brey.

Why did they need the MagLab?

The MagLab's NMR probe technology team is uniquely talented and focused developing innovative NMR probes to meet user program needs that change on a week-to-week basis.

Details for scientists


This research was funded by the following grant: G.S. Boebinger (NSF DMR-1157490)

For more information, contact William W. Brey.


  • Research Area: Magnet Resonance Technique Development
  • Research Initiatives: Energy, Life,Materials
  • Facility / Program: NMR/MRI
  • Year: 2015
Last modified on 20 November 2015