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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W021528/1
Title: The UK Dynamic Nuclear Polarisation Magic Angle Spinning NMR Facility
Principal Investigator: Kockenberger, Dr W
Other Investigators:
Titman, Dr J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Physics & Astronomy
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2022 Ends: 31 March 2027 Value (£): 1,857,395
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Biological & Medicinal Chem.
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Materials Characterisation
Particle Technology Synthetic biology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
EP/W021498/1 EP/W021463/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
30 Nov 2021 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel November 2021 - Panel 2 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a key technique for understanding atomic-scale level structures and dynamics in the biological, chemical, physical and material sciences. However, despite its unique versatility and high chemical environments information content, NMR suffers from low sensitivity, due to the weak nuclear polarisation, and requires long experiment times, especially for dilute species such as those in low concentrations or intrinsically insensitive with small magnetic moments. Dynamic Nuclear Polarisation (DNP) is an emerging technology that can enhance the NMR signal intensities by up to three orders of magnitude and involves polarisation transfer from the much larger polarisation of unpaired electrons in radicals or metal ions, either implanted or inherently present in the samples, to the nearby nuclei followed by NMR detection.

The advent of commercial spectrometers for DNP Magic Angle Spinning (MAS) NMR since 2008 has redirected research efforts away from the initial instrumentation development to more application-driven research. The pathway to success relies heavily on obtaining high signal enhancements by achieving optimal sample formulation which involves an appropriate choice of the unpaired electrons and of a suitable matrix to embed them in the sample of interest. Many pioneering applications have since emerged, demonstrating the unique potential of this novel spectroscopy method for addressing a wide variety of different research challenges ranging from energy storage materials, catalysis, drug delivery to biological molecules with tremendous potential for wider utilisation in the future.

The importance of DNP MAS NMR has been recognised in a review of the UK NMR landscape commissioned and published by the EPSRC as an NMR roadmap in 2013 (and updated in 2017) that stressed the urgent need for significant capital investment in this technology. Key recommendations were the immediate provision of the first commercial DNP MAS NMR system in the UK, that led to the funding of the Nottingham DNP MAS NMR Facility operating a 14.1 T instrument (EP/L0222524/1) in 2015, and at least two additional systems across the UK in the medium term, that triggered the submission of a business case to the EPSRC Strategic Equipment Process for a 9.4 T system by the University of Manchester in partnership with the University of Liverpool in 2020. The recommendations of the NMR roadmap were recently corroborated by a Statement of Community Need submitted in 2019 by the University of Cambridge, representing the external user group of the Nottingham Facility, which was prioritised by the EPSRC National Research Facility panel. In response to these decade-long activities, EPSRC invited the community to submit a full proposal to the Strategic Equipment Process for the provision of DNP MAS NMR spectroscopy to serve the UK science community.

Here, we propose to establish a distributed DNP MAS NMR Facility located over the three host institutions by combining the full operation of the 14.1 T Nottingham DNP MAS NMR Facility with a fraction of experimental time of the 9.4 T system at the University of Cambridge and a new 9.4 T instrument at the University of Manchester, augmented by additional capabilities for fast MAS, that, taken together, will provide the UK community with both regular access to instrumentation and world-class expertise. We will deliver on this major transformative investment in DNP MAS NMR by being able to benefit EPSRC Prosperity Outcomes, impact Research Themes and cover many Research Areas. Critical to the success and sustainability of this distributed Facility is the support of two Facility Managers with funding for operating costs coupled to one management structure with a single-entry point application procedure, strong community support and wide dissemination and outreach strategies engaging (DNP) NMR experts with the broader UK research communities.

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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk