Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

High-resolution, high-sensitivity NMR of nanolitre anisotropic samples by coil spinning


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) can probe the local structure and dynamic properties of liquids and solids, making it one of the most powerful and versatile analytical methods available today. However, its intrinsically low sensitivity precludes NMR analysis of very small samples—as frequently used when studying isotopically labelled biological molecules or advanced materials, or as preferred when conducting high-throughput screening of biological samples or ‘lab-on-a-chip’ studies. The sensitivity of NMR has been improved by using static micro-coils1, alternative detection schemes2,3 and pre-polarization approaches4. But these strategies cannot be easily used in NMR experiments involving the fast sample spinning essential for obtaining well-resolved spectra5,6 from non-liquid samples. Here we demonstrate that inductive coupling allows wireless transmission of radio-frequency pulses and the reception of NMR signals under fast spinning of both detector coil and sample. This enables NMR measurements characterized by an optimal filling factor, very high radio-frequency field amplitudes and enhanced sensitivity that increases with decreasing sample volume. Signals obtained for nanolitre-sized samples of organic powders and biological tissue increase by almost one order of magnitude (or, equivalently, are acquired two orders of magnitude faster), compared to standard NMR measurements. Our approach also offers optimal sensitivity when studying samples that need to be confined inside multiple safety barriers, such as radioactive materials. In principle, the co-rotation of a micrometre-sized detector coil with the sample and the use of inductive coupling (techniques that are at the heart of our method) should enable highly sensitive NMR measurements on any mass-limited sample that requires fast mechanical rotation to obtain well-resolved spectra. The method is easy to implement on a commercial NMR set-up and exhibits improved performance with miniaturization, and we accordingly expect that it will facilitate the development of novel solid-state NMR methodologies and find wide use in high-throughput chemical and biomedical analysis.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Schematic diagram of the magic-angle coil spinning (MACS) insert.
Figure 2: Sensitivity comparison on 1 H (proton) MAS NMR spectra from small samples of powdered l -alanine.
Figure 3: Proton NMR spectra of bovine muscle tissue.
Figure 4: 29 Si MAS NMR spectra of Pyrex.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Olson, D. L., Peck, T. L., Webb, A. G., Magin, R. L. & Sweedler, J. V. High-resolution microcoil 1H-NMR for mass-limited, nanoliter-volume samples. Science 270, 1967–1970 (1995)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Savukov, I. M., Lee, S.-K. & Romalis, M. V. Optical detection of liquid-state NMR. Nature 442, 1021–1024 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Rugar, D. et al. Force detection of nuclear magnetic resonance. Science 264, 1560–1563 (1994)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Ardenkjaer-Larsen, J. H. et al. Increase in signal-to-noise ratio of >10,000 times in liquid-state NMR. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 100, 10158–10163 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Andrew, E. R., Bradbury, A. & Eades, R. G. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectra from a crystal rotated at high speed. Nature 182, 1659 (1958)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Lowe, I. J. Free induction decays of rotating solids. Phys. Rev. Lett. 2, 285–287 (1959)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Hoult, D. I. & Richards, R. E. The signal-to-noise ratio of the nuclear magnetic resonance experiment. J. Magn. Reson. 24, 71–85 (1976)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Webb, A. G. Radiofrequency microcoils in magnetic resonance. Prog. Nucl. Magn. Reson. Spectrosc. 31, 1–42 (1997)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Grant, S. C. et al. NMR spectroscopy of single neurons. Magn. Reson. Med. 44, 19–22 (2000)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Grant, S. C., Buckley, D. L., Gibbs, S., Webb, A. G. & Blackband, S. J. MR microscopy of multicomponent diffusion in single neurons. Magn. Reson. Med. 45, 1107–1112 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Yamauchi, K., Jannsen, J. W. G. & Kentgens, A. P. M. Implementing solenoid microcoils for wide-line solid-state NMR. J. Magn. Reson. 167, 87–96 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. van Bentum, P. J. M., Janssen, J. W. G. & Kentgens, A. P. M. Towards nuclear magnetic resonance μ-spectroscopy and μ-imaging. Analyst 129, 793–803 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Janssen, H., Brinkmann, A., van Eck, E. R. H., van Bentum, J. M. & Kentgens, A. P. M. Microcoil high-resolution magic angle spinning NMR spectroscopy. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 128, 8722–8723 (2006)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Brey, W. W. et al. Design, construction, and validation of a 1-mm triple-resonance high-temperature-superconducting probe for NMR. J. Magn. Reson. 179, 290–293 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Terman, F. E. Electronic and Radio Engineering Ch. 3 (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1955)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Turner, J. D. The development of a thick-film non-contact shaft torque sensor for automotive applications. J. Phys. E 22, 82–88 (1989)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. Wu, J., Quinn, V. & Bernstein, G. H. Powering efficiency of inductive links with inlaid electroplated microcoils. J. Micromech. Microeng. 14, 576 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Raad, A. & Darrasse, L. Optimization of NMR receiver bandwidth by inductive coupling. Magn. Reson. Imag. 10, 55–65 (1992)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Hoult, D. I. & Tomanek, B. Use of mutually inductive coupling in probe design. Concepts Magn. Reson. B 15, 262–285 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Ginefri, J. C., Darrasse, L. & Crozat, P. High-temperature superconducting surface coil for in vivo microimaging of the human skin. Magn. Reson. Med. 45, 376–382 (2001)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Schnall, M. D., Barlow, C., Subramanian, V. H. & Leigh, J. S. J. Wireless implanted magnetic resonance probes for in vivo NMR. J. Magn. Reson. 68, 161–167 (1986)

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Barbara, T. Cylindrical demagnetization fields and microprobe design in high-resolution NMR. J. Magn. Reson. A 109, 265–269 (1994)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Hu, J. Z., Rommereim, D. N. & Wind, R. A. High-resolution 1H NMR spectroscopy in rat liver using magic angle turning at a 1 Hz spinning rate. Magn. Reson. Med. 47, 829–836 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Cheng, L. L. et al. Quantitative neuropathology by high resolution magic angle spinning proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 94, 6408–6413 (1997)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Govindaraju, V., Young, K. & Maudsley, A. A. Proton NMR chemical shifts and coupling constants for brain metabolites. NMR Biomed. 13, 129–153 (2000)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Farnan, I. et al. High-resolution solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance experiments on highly radioactive ceramics. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 75, 5232–5236 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Minard, K. R. & Wind, R. A. Picoliter 1H NMR spectroscopy. J. Magn. Reson. 154, 336–343 (2002)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Chen, J.-H., Enloe, B. M., Xiao, Y, Cory, D. G. & Singer, S. Isotropic susceptibility shift under MAS: The origin of the split water resonances in 1H MAS NMR spectra of cell suspensions. Magn. Reson. Med. 50, 515–521 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Rogers, J. A., Jackman, R. J., Whitesides, G. M., Olson, D. L. & Sweedler, J. V. Using microcontact printing to fabricate microcoils on capillaries for high resolution proton nuclear magnetic resonance on nanoliter volumes. Appl. Phys. Lett. 70, 2464–2466 (1997)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Malba, V. et al. Laser-lathe lithography — a novel method for manufacturing nuclear magnetic resonance microcoils. Biomed. Microdevices 5, 21–27 (2003)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank J. Virlet for discussions on inductive coupling, H. Desvaux for discussions and help with the manuscript, D. Hoult for discussions on inductive coupling and micro-coils, A. Trabesinger, C. A. Meriles, T. Charpentier and A. Llor for discussions, P. Berthault for help with the manuscript and F. Engelke for help with chip capacitors and hardware.

Author Contributions D.S. and J.-F.J. conceived the technique and carried out the NMR experiments. G.L.G. machined the ceramic and plastic rotor inserts. D.S. wrote the paper.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. Sakellariou.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figures S1-S3 and additional references. (PDF 1964 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sakellariou, D., Goff, G. & Jacquinot, JF. High-resolution, high-sensitivity NMR of nanolitre anisotropic samples by coil spinning. Nature 447, 694–697 (2007).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing