I'm a chemistry student who has been unable to do much in my field of choice due to COVID. I have an old spec 20 and other basic analytical chemistry instruments, but nothing when it comes to electronics and that significantly impairs me in a project I am currently undertaking- construction of a minimal nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.

To simplify, when certain nuclei are placed in a magnetic field they act not unlike a magnet, and align their poles accordingly along the applied magnetic field. When a specific radio frequency signal is applied, the nuclei are rotated away from the applied magnetic field and rotate off axis, emitting their own detectable radio frequency signal that can be used to analyze chemical compounds. This method of NMR is called continuous wave NMR and has largely been replaced by pulsed NMR or fourier transform NMR in favor of its higher accuracy. FT-NMR uses a short radio frequency pulse to excite the nuclei, and collects the radio frequency signal emitted by the decaying higher energy state of the processing nuclei. This is called the Free Induction Decay. The fourier transform of the average free induction decay over many pulse sequences is used to generate the chemical shift spectrum. This spectrum can be used to reveal much about the structure of a molecule or regions within the molecule. This technology is out of the reach of many universities, despite many benchtop NMR spectrometers appearing on the market lately.

Attached is a block diagram of a minimal pulsed NMR setup. If I am to win I would set up a low field (approx. 0.3T) setup for 1H NMR as illustrated. Test bench equipment would help me immensely with my current long term goal of using software defined radio as outlined in the second attached photo. This shows immense promise as costs for SDR platforms continue to shrink and their applications continue to expand in medical imaging.

I hope to document this process and make magnetic resonance more accessible to science enthusiasts as well as those in underfunded institutions. Thank you!


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