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PNNL celebrates arrival of powerful NMR

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March 28, 2002 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory today celebrated the arrival of the world's largest, highest-performance nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer-a first-of-its-kind 900 megahertz (MHz) wide-bore system developed by Oxford Instruments and Varian Inc.

The 900 MHz wide-bore nuclear magnetic resonance, or NMR, spectrometer is a powerful scientific instrument that may enable scientists to make new discoveries in the chemical, physical, biological and life sciences. When operational, this unique system could enhance understanding of basic molecular and cellular processes and how those relate to damage or repair to DNA, disease development and protein interactions.

NMR spectrometers are similar to the magnetic resonance imagers commonly used in hospitals yet use much stronger magnetic fields and are able to study much smaller samples than the human body. NMR spectrometers allow scientists to determine the three-dimensional structure of molecules, viewing them atom-by-atom to obtain detailed structural pictures of complex proteins. These proteins may be associated with debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"This spectrometer will be a state-of-the-art instrument that should enable us to gain new insight into biological phenomena and deliver breakthrough science and technology," according to PNNL Director Lura Powell.

Installation of the system will complete the suite of advanced instrumentation housed in the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE scientific user facility at PNNL. As a user instrument, the 900 MHz NMR will be available to other scientists through a competitive proposal process.

More information:

Fast facts on PNNL's 900 MHz wide-bore NMR

NMR collection drives cellular research

"We're proud to make this novel tool available to the worldwide scientific community. We want to share our capabilities so other scientists can make new discoveries important to us all," Powell said. "We appreciate the sustained effort by Oxford and Varian in making this possible."

Over the last several years, Oxford Instruments of Oxford, England, constructed the 900 MHz wide-bore magnet, which was energized in England this past December. The magnet was delivered to PNNL on March 10 and lifted by crane into EMSL on March 13. Varian Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., provided the rest of the NMR system, including the electronics, console, detectors, software and workstation. Both companies now will integrate and install the system, energize the magnet-called "bringing it to field"-and evaluate the system's performance over the next few months. The first studies using the instrument are expected to begin late this summer.

Over the past 40 years, scientists have used NMR technology to advance their understanding of chemistry and molecular structure. The laboratory's 900 MHz wide-bore system is part of a global shift toward development of larger and more powerful NMRs. Greater power provides the opportunity to study larger molecules individually and in group interactions in greater detail. When PNNL ordered the 900 MHz wide-bore system, the most powerful NMR in existence was 600 MHz. With its larger bore size and power, PNNL's new system will allow scientists to study molecules and cells at greater resolution, thereby facilitating more detailed views of a cell's physical and chemical properties and innerworkings.

DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research funded the 900 MHz wide-bore NMR magnet's development with $7.2 million, of which a $1.2 million final payment will be made when it is operational.

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Tags: Fundamental Science, EMSL, Chemistry

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