Better nuclear MR through chemistry

University of Texas researchers have come up with a new chemical sensor that may facilitate more cost-effective use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy in both clinical and research settings.

The material, called PCM-22, has ultraviolet properties and can quickly determine the purity of the heavy water that’s needed to operate NMR equipment.

“When you buy heavy water from a manufacturer it starts out ultrapure,” the lead researcher explains in a UT-Austin news item. “But as soon as you unscrew the bottle, hydrogen atoms from the air start swapping with deuterium atoms. A week later, all of the H’s have become scrambled with the D’s and it effectively ruins the heavy water. It’s an exchange that you can’t stop.”

PCM-22 can help, as it’s “sensitive enough to detect concentrations of ordinary water as low as 10 parts per million in a solution of heavy water, which could make it cheaper and faster to verify the purity of this important reagent.”

NMR spectroscopy is primarily used to evaluate metabolic changes in diseases affecting the brain.

The new material has promising environmental applications as well, including cleanups of chemical spills and safety assessments of old industrial sites.

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