Parahydrogen-enhanced zero-field nuclear magnetic resonance


Nuclear magnetic resonance, conventionally detected in magnetic fields of several tesla, is a powerful analytical tool for the determination of molecular identity, structure and function. With the advent of prepolarization methods and detection schemes using atomic magnetometers or superconducting quantum interference devices, interest in NMR in fields comparable to the Earth’s magnetic field and below (down to zero field) has been revived. Despite the use of superconducting quantum interference devices or atomic magnetometers, low-field NMR typically suffers from low sensitivity compared with conventional high-field NMR. Here we demonstrate direct detection of zero-field NMR signals generated through parahydrogen-induced polarization, enabling high-resolution NMR without the use of any magnets. The sensitivity is sufficient to observe spectra exhibiting 13C–1H scalar nuclear spin–spin couplings (known as J couplings) in compounds with 13C in natural abundance, without the need for signal averaging. The resulting spectra show distinct features that aid chemical fingerprinting.

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Figure 1: Scheme for detecting parahydrogen-induced polarization at zero magnetic field.
Figure 2: Single-shot zero-field PHIP J-spectra (imaginary component).
Figure 3: Zero-field J spectrum (imaginary component) of ethylbenzene, produced through parahydrogenation of styrene with 13C in natural abundance.
Figure 4: Zero-field PHIP spectra for several compounds.


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Research was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering under Contract no DE-AC02-05CH11231 (T.T., P.G., G.K. and A.P.), by the National Science Foundation under award noCHE-0957655 (D.B. and M.P.L.) and by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (S.K. and J.K.). We acknowledge discussions with M. Levitt and magnetometer-cell fabrication help from S. Schima.

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T.T. designed research, carried out experiments and wrote the paper. P.G. contributed to construction of the experiment. G.K. carried out experiments and theoretical analysis. S.K. and J.K. provided the microfabricated vapour cell. M.P.L. built the experiment, designed research, carried out experiments, simulations and theoretical analysis and wrote the paper. D.B. designed research and wrote the paper. A.P. designed research and wrote the paper.

Correspondence to A. Pines.

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Theis, T., Ganssle, P., Kervern, G. et al. Parahydrogen-enhanced zero-field nuclear magnetic resonance. Nature Phys 7, 571–575 (2011).

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