betaNMR: From nuclear physics to medical applications


TRIUMF Auditorium


Monika Stachura (TRIUMF)


Recently β-NMR spectroscopy was successfully applied for the world’s first experiments on liquid samples - an achievement which opens new avenues of research in the fields of wet chemistry and biochemistry. This project was motivated by the need for finding a new experimental approach to directly study biologically highly relevant metal ions, such as Mg(II), Cu(I), Ca(II), and Zn(II), that are extremely difficult to study with conventional methods in the field. The resonance spectrum recorded for 31Mg implanted into a liquid sample shows two clear resonances, which originate from Mg ions occupying two different coordination geometries, illustrating that this technique can in fact discriminate between different structures - the first and the most important step towards the application of β-NMR spectroscopy in chemistry.

A prototype bio-β-NMR spectrometer, designed and constructed explicitly for this purpose using polarized ions at the ISOLDE-COLLAPS setup, allowed for testing different aspects, such as: different liquids, vacua and rest gases, showing that aqueous solutions can as well be investigated by this method. In a future biochemical perspective, this proof-of-principle allows the application of β-NMR for studying metal ions, which are silent in most other spectroscopic techniques in their body-like environments. In order to exploit the potential of this technique a new spectrometer dedicated to liquid samples is currently under intense consideration at ISAC-I.