Magnetic Resonance: Removing the Guess Work
Magnetic resonance techniques have become integral to a broad spectrum of scientific, engineering and medical disciplines. These techniques, namely nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), leverage the magnetic properties of nuclei and electrons to deliver useful insights into molecular structures, complex materials, industrial systems, and living organisms.
NMR spectroscopy works on the basis of spin, that is, when applying a static magnetic field to a substance, the nuclei of the atoms behave like tiny magnets which resonate at precise frequencies in that field. These particular frequencies become the atomic “fingerprint” for that substance. NMR spectroscopy is an essential analytical tool in the fields of chemistry, structural biology, biomedicine and materials science, used to delineate structures of small molecules, pharmaceuticals, proteins, polymers and more.
MRI, a vital tool in clinical diagnostics and biomedical research, uses principles similar to NMR. In this case, the manipulation of the magnetic properties of nuclei leads to the production of detailed, non-invasive images of the object’s surface and internal structures, such as the organs of a human body.
In parallel, ESR applies similar principles, focusing on the behaviour of unpaired electrons in a magnetic field. This technique provides insights into numerous areas, such as free radicals in biological systems, the behaviour of transition metal catalysts, or semiconductor properties in materials science.
Collectively, these magnetic resonance techniques illustrate the extraordinary potential of harnessing and probing the magnetic properties of materials. More and more fields of science and engineering are finding applications for the magnetic resonance phenomenon, from quantum computing to mining and beyond. It is unparalleled in analytical research and rapidly developing, with the advent of faster computers and electronics, stronger and more stable magnets and a finer understanding of spin physics.