Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a principal analytical technique used for the structure elucidation of molecules. This Primer covers different approaches to accelerate data acquisition and increase sensitivity of NMR measurements through parallelization, enabled by hardware design and/or pulse sequence development. Starting with hardware-based methods, we discuss coupling multiple detectors to multiple samples so each detector/sample combination provides unique information. We then cover spatio-temporal encoding, which uses magnetic field gradients and frequency-selective manipulations to parallelize multidimensional acquisition and compress it into a single shot. We also consider the parallel manipulation of different magnetization reservoirs within a sample to yield new, information-rich pulse schemes using either homonuclear or multinuclear detection. The Experimentation section describes the set-up of parallel NMR techniques. Practical examples revealing improvements in speed and sensitivity offered by the parallel methods are demonstrated in Results. Examples of use of parallelization in small-molecule analysis are discussed in Applications, with experimental constraints addressed under the Limitations and optimizations and Reproducibility and data deposition sections. The most promising future developments are considered in the Outlook, where the largest gains are expected to emerge once the discussed techniques are combined.
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L.F. acknowledges support from the Israel Science Foundation (grants 965/18) and the generosity of the Perlman Family Foundation. L.F. holds the Bertha and Isadore Gudelsky Professorial Chair and heads the Clore Institute for High-Field Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy, whose support is also acknowledged.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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The process by which nuclei spins rotate (precess) about an applied magnetic field.
- Gradient-based spatial encoding
Selective excitation in the presence of magnetic field gradients.
- Chemical shifts
The resonant frequencies of a nucleus relative to those of a defined chemical group within a reference compound.
- Magnetogyric ratio
(γ). The ratio of the magnetic moment of a nucleus to its angular momentum.
- Spectral dimensions
Frequency dimensions in nuclear magnetic resonance spectra that will typically reflect chemical shifts and/or coupling constants.
- Mass-limited samples
Samples of limited amount; the term is used to distinguish from the situation of low concentration due to poor solubility. The sensitivity of nuclear magnetic resonance measurements of mass-limited samples can be improved by using small-diameter probes and higher sample concentrations, prompting use of the term ‘mass sensitivity’ for small-diameter probes.
- Phase shift
A change in the phase of a signal or waveform.
(Also referred to as a scan). The acquisition of a solitary free induction decay.
(Correlation spectroscopy). A technique for identifying directly scalar coupled (J-coupled) nuclei, most often protons.
(Total correlation spectroscopy). A technique related to COSY that distributes magnetization within a network of mutually scalar coupled protons so as to group them within a structure.
(Heteronuclear single-quantum correlation). An experiment used to correlate an insensitive nucleus (such as 13C or 15N) with its directly attached proton(s) via one-bond scalar coupling.
(Heteronuclear multiple-quantum correlation). An experiment closely related to HSQC and HMBC used to correlate an insensitive nucleus (such as 13C or 15N) with its directly attached proton(s) via one-bond scalar coupling.
- Dynamic nuclear polarization
A technique that uses unpaired electron spins to boost the nuclear magnetic resonance signal by as much as 100,000.
- Free induction decays
(FIDs). The observable nuclear magnetic resonance signals generated by non-equilibrium nuclear spin magnetization precessing about the magnetic field.
Sequences of nuclear magnetic resonance experiments (pulse schemes) with a common relaxation delay.
- Pools of magnetization
Subsets of nuclear spins, typically defined by their coupling interactions with other nuclear magnetic resonance-active spins.
(Nuclear magnetic resonance by ordered acquisition using 1H detection). An experimental scheme for acquiring multiple experiments in one but requiring only a single relaxation delay.
- Polarization transfer
The transfer of nuclear polarization between subsets of nuclear spins.
- Magnetization helices
Spatially dependent magnetization patterns, where each chemical site’s magnetization subtends a helix whose pitch is linearly proportional to the site’s chemical shift.
Signals that peak as a function of the k-domain variable, according to their indirect-domain chemical shift.
- Recovery delay
(Also known as relaxation delay). A time period in which spins recover their equilibrium populations between scans.
- Nucleus editing
Recording multiple data sets in which signals from separate pools are phase-labelled relative to one another.
- Isotropic mixing
Transfer of x, y and z magnetization components (hence, isotropic) between J-coupled spin systems.
(Heteronuclear multiple-bond correlation). An experiment that correlates an insensitive nucleus (such as 13C or 15N) with protons that are remote in a molecular structure (typically within two or three bonds) via their long-range scalar coupling.
Parallel acquisition nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
The degree of alignment of nuclear spins with the applied magnetic field that gives rise to an observable nuclear magnetic resonance signal.
(Heteronuclear correlation). A technique for correlating an insensitive nucleus (such as 13C) with neighbouring proton(s) via scalar coupling while using direct detection of the insensitive nucleus.
(Parallel acquisition nuclear magnetic resonance). An all-in-one combination of experimental applications: a method that combines three standard pulse sequences (INADEQUATE, HSQC and HMBC) into a single supersequence.
(Incredible natural abundance double-quantum transfer experiment). A method for correlating adjacent insensitive nuclei (typically 13C) via one-bond scalar coupling.
Widths of nuclear magnetic resonance peaks at half height, usually defined in hertz.
(Nuclear Overhauser effect spectroscopy). A technique for identifying nuclei, most often protons, that are close in space (typically <5 Å) and, hence, share dipolar coupling.
(Rotating-frame Overhauser effect spectroscopy). A technique related to NOESY that is also used to identify spatial proximity between protons.
- Time-domain multiplex
A method of interfacing a certain number of coils with a smaller number of receive channels for parallelizing multiple NMR experiments.
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Kupče, Ē., Frydman, L., Webb, A.G. et al. Parallel nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Nat Rev Methods Primers 1, 27 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43586-021-00024-3